Even though all political parties claim to be seeking votes on the plank of development, underlying their candidate lists are careful caste considerations involving their core constituencies, plus EBCs. Nearly a quarter of the candidates in both the RJD and JD(U) lists, 24% and 26% respectively, belong to Extremely Backward Classes. The EBCs form about 25% of the population in Bihar, and are considered floating voters. Of the 144 candidates the RJD has put up as part of Grand Alliance, Yadavs comprise 40% (58 candidates), and Muslims 12% (17 candidates) — the bedrock of the party’s MY plank.
The NDA is also eyeing the Yadav votes with 17 candidates in the JD(U)’s list of 115 and 16 in BJP’s list of 110. This means Yadavs, who comprise about 14% of the population, comprise 91 of the candidates announced so far.
The JD(U) has fielded 11 Muslim candidates, and the BJP none. It had fielded one Muslim candidate in the last Assembly polls.
What stands out in the lists of the three parties is the bid to win over EBCs, in which Sahani and Dhanuk are the major castes. Of the JD(U)’s 26 EBC candidates, seven are Dhanuk. The BJP has fielded five EBCs but also left 11 seats for alliance partner Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party, who belongs to the Mallah community.
The RJD has fielded 24 EBC nominees, 7 of whom are Nonias. A senior RJD leader said: “We have applied serious thought to win over EBCs. While MY dominates our list but EBC representation is the takeaway from it.”
EBC votes are seen as floating votes because of their scattered population across the state and their lack of one overarching leader. With votes divided along caste lines in the state, EBC voters are often the deciders.
The BJP and JD(U) are also banking big on their core bases, upper caste-Baniya and OBCs for the BJP, and Luv-Kush (Kurmi-Koeri) for the JD(U). While the BJP has 50 upper castes in its list and 17 OBC Vaishya candidates, the JD(U) has fielded 18 upper caste candidates. The RJD has 12 upper caste nominees.
The JD(U) has fielded 12 Kurmi and 15 Kushwaha candidates, and the BJP four candidates each from these OBC groups.
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