In deciding tickets for the 160 assembly seats the BJP will contest in Bihar, party president Amit Shah listed three criteria — winnability, caste and age of the ticket seekers. Yet a scrutiny of the 154 names put out so far by the BJP shows that caste has been a major factor.
As many as 65 seats have gone to candidates from the so-called forward castes — Rajput (30), Bhumihar (19), Brahmin (13) and Kayastha (3).
The Yadavs with 22 candidates, the EBC-Vaishya with 20 and EBCs with 13 lead the rest. Mahadalits and Adivasi nominees together account for 12 tickets and the Paswans 10. The remaining candidates are Kushwaha (6), Kurmi (4) and Muslim (2).
Party sources said Shah and team members Bhupendra Yadav, Ananth Kumar, Sushil Modi, Dharmendra Pradhan and leaders from Bihar concentrated on the background of the candidates, their ability to take along Sangh-affiliates, their understanding of panchayati raj (Shah takes special interest in grassroots leaders), impact of the choice of candidates on sub-castes, and the possibility of counter-polarisation if a person were to be denied a ticket.
Since the BJP’s partners are two big leaders from the Paswan and Musahar communities — Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi — with a total of 60 seats as their share of the NDA tickets, the BJP has fielded 21 Dalits and EBCs.
At the BJP headquarters in New Delhi Monday, more than 100 party workers from different districts in Bihar turned up to raise issues and object to seat allocation.
Shah gave them a patient hearing and then said: “The ticket distribution is over now. I take responsibility. Even if I have made a mistake, please go to your constituency and start working for the BJP.” He then posed for selfies with them.
The BJP reading is that 30 per cent of Bihar’s 6.68 crore voters will go beyond caste lines. It is counting on the “Modi factor” to give a “befitting reply” to 25 years of the rule of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.
“Our main election plank is the gathbandhan (alliance) of Nitish and Lalu. Wait and watch how it goes once you know more about their candidates,” a senior party leader said.