The phrase was often used by the late BJP strategist Arun Jaitley. He would call the NDA in Bihar “a rainbow coalition” with the presence and representation of all social groups. If the BJP brought in upper castes, and a fair chunk of OBC and EBC (Economically Backward Class) votes, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) had the backing of EBCs and Scheduled Castes. As against Lalu’s tried and tested Muslim-Yadav combination (31% of Bihar’s population), the NDA thus stitched a formidable social combination of own (together around 40%).
As prominent political scientist Shaibal Gupta points out, this makes the NDA a coalition of social extremes — upper caste support on one end, and Dalit on the other — first finding success in Bihar in the 2005 Assembly polls. The Congress had once tried a combination of Dalits and upper castes, Gupta notes.
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The success of the NDA combination is even more significant as it comes in the wake of Lalu Prasad’s politics sharpening the divide between the upper castes and OBCs. Campaigning in Raghopur during the 2015 elections, when the JD(U) was its partner, the RJD chief had described the election as being a “backward versus forward” contest.
Now, of course, Nitish is back in the NDA fold, and the alliance’s coalition of social extremes may hold the key again to who comes to power in the state.
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