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India
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Chemistry with the most backward helps BJP move forward in UP, Bihar

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NEW DELHI: What could explain BJP’s romp through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: states where it was pitted against the Opposition’s attempt to consolidate the backward communities? The extent of BJP’s sweep in pockets of UP suggests that the weaker backwards, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to by introducing himself as an ati picchda (extremely backward) person, did not side with the dominant Yadavs and instead voted for the party with upper castes as its core support base.
It is in line with BJP’s now tested strategy of weaning away non-Yadav OBCs from the consolidated Mandal bloc, which had marked the rise of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav in the late 1980s. It has happened for the third time since 2014 (BJP’s sweep of the 2017 UP elections being the second instance) and implies that a larger phenomenon is at work. Has the MBC vote become caste-neutral or is it being successfully subsumed in the larger Hindutva umbrella; or is it defining itself and seeking identity in opposition to its numerically stronger ‘forwards among backwards’?
The preponderance of political parties catering to MBCs like Nishad Party or the Rajbhar outfit and the breaking away of Maurya leaders towards BJP in UP suggests it could be one or all of the reasons. The ‘mandal vs kamandal’ phase in Bihar mirrors this UP phenomenon. In 2019, the Opposition alliance focused on bringing the backwards together under the umbrella of larger backward unity, represented by RJD of Lalu Prasad-Tejashwi Yadav leading the band of the fledgling RLSP of Kushwahas and Insaan Party of Nishads.
That the ‘most backwards’ have sided with the saffron alliance suggests that they don’t appear as blindly supportive of the lead OBC outfits as they did for years post-Mandal. If there were two untested MBC outfits with the Opposition, it could be that CM Nitish Kumar, who himself hails from a ‘strong OBC’ community but carved out the new constituency of MBCs through his policy of sub-categorisation, played the catalyst in keeping the communities from drifting to the Opposition.
Breaking a community’s socio-political behaviour, that is bound to be multi-dimensional, into individual strands and arriving at a definitive conclusion has remained a challenge for a long time now. But what seems to emerge from the rubble of the Opposition’s decimation in the Hindi heartland is that MBCs have truly arrived at a post-Mandal inflection point where they are not shackled by the choices of their dominant backward brethren but are seeking space of their own. It could be under as different a platform as BJP or through their independent caste outfits.

Navbharat Times

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