New Delhi: The BJP’s perceived “excessive” outreach to the Yadav vote bank and a perception that the party had repeatedly ignored the forward castes, primarily the Brahmins and the Bhumihars, who have been traditional voters of the party in Bihar, coupled with the massive anger against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, may have had a major impact on its electoral performance in the state.
As per data shared by BJP strategists, in the 225 seats where the BJP-JDU combine are contesting (BJP-110 seats, JDU-115 seats), 29 Rajput (22 BJP, 7 JDU), 25 Bhumihar (15 BJP, 10 JDU), 13 Brahmin (BJP-11, 2 JDU) and 33 Yadav (15 BJP, 18 JDU ) candidates were given tickets, thereby making Yadavs the largest caste bloc when it came to giving representation by the BJP-JDU combine.
NDA’s main opposition party, the RJD, which is contesting on 144 seats, gave tickets to 58 Yadav candidates, 17 Muslim candidates and 13 upper caste candidates.
Ground reports and assessment of voting pattern carried out by both the BJP and RJD, and which have been seen by The Sunday Guardian, have revealed that while the Muslims and Yadavs (MY), the two core vote banks of RJD, have strongly rallied behind the Grand Alliance candidates, Brahmin and Bhumihar voters have split and in many seats have supported the Grand Alliance candidates, especially Congress candidates. The Congress, which is contesting on 70 seats, gave 11 seats to Bhumihars and 9 each to Brahmins and Rajputs. Further, according to these assessments, while the LJP is unlikely to win more than 5-7 seats, it has eroded the vote bank of the JDU in at least a dozen seats, thereby indirectly helping the Grand Alliance candidates. The same has been done by Upendra Singh Kushwaha’s RLSP, which is denting the NDA’s chances by garnering 5,000-7,000 votes in at least 10-15 seats. The Brahmins, Bhumihars, Rajputs and the Vaishyas—who comprise not more than 17% of the state’s population and had started supporting the BJP after the Congress lost electoral relevance in the state in the 1990s and the RJD started alienating them in lieu of the backward classes—for the first time in the last 15 years have, in many pockets, voted for the Grand Alliance candidates, including the RJD.
While the Brahmin-Bhumihar-Vaishya bloc has limited electoral strength, their influence gets amplified as they play a key role in forming an opinion at the local level and thereby impacting the voting pattern of other castes and classes.
“The GA already had the MY combination supporting it strongly. Now, with the Brahmin-Bhumihar-Vaishya combine too supporting the GA in many pockets, many of NDA’s safe seats have become ‘difficult’,” a Patna based BJP strategist told The Sunday Guardian.
Grand Alliance CM candidate Tejashwi Yadav had said during campaigning that he needed the support of and was going to take along the upper caste voters if he became Chief Minister.
The Yadavs, who account for close to 15% of the total state population, a good number of whom had voted for NDA candidates in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, have this time voted for the RJD. The same has happened with 17% Muslim voters, who have supported GA candidates whole-heartedly.
BJP’S FOCUS ON YADAV VOTES
The increased thrust on bringing Yadav voters into the BJP, according to party leaders, was being done keeping the “future in mind” as party strategists feel that the BJP needed Yadav support to form government on its own in the state, which it has not been able to do so far, despite contesting virtually alone in the 2015 polls.
The BJP, which is contesting on 110 seats and has been trying hard to woo the Yadav voters—which is evident from the way it had appointed Nityanand Rai, who is from the Yadav community, as its state president in 2014 and later appointed party general secretary Bhupender Yadav as the face of its campaigning strategy—had given 15 tickets to Yadavs this time. In 2015, when it was contesting on 153 seats, it had given tickets to 22 Yadav candidates, which is a far cry from the six seats that it had given to Yadav candidates in 2010. Of the 22 Yadav candidates that the BJP gave tickets to, six won.
“BJP’s core voters are the upper castes as they have no option but to align with it after the Congress became weak and Lalu Prasad Yadav made it clear that he did not need them. In this election, the BJP has fielded 51 candidates—out of the total 110—who belong to the upper castes (22 Rajputs, 15 Bhumihars, 11 Brahmins and three Kayasthas). However, in order to give the Yadav community more representation, the BJP had to take away tickets from the Brahmin and Bhumihar quota. It has come as a big surprise for the Brahmins that they have got fewer tickets than the Yadavs. The Bhumihars have got the same number of tickets as that of the Yadavs (15 each),” a confidant of a sitting Bihar MP, who is also a Union Minister, told The Sunday Guardian.
The remaining 59 seats have been allotted by the BJP to candidates from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). In the 2015 Assembly polls, the BJP had fielded 65 upper caste candidates which included 30Rajputs, 18 Bhumihars, 14 Brahmins and three Baniyas.
The BJP-JDU combine, in all, has fielded 29 Rajputs, 25 Bhumihars, 13 Brahmins and 33 Yadav candidates in this election.
The JDU, BJP’s allies in the state, too, could not do much to counter the perception that the NDA was following an anti-Brahmin-Bhumihar strategy.
Out of the 115 candidates, JDU gave tickets to 19 upper caste candidates, who included 10 Bhumihars, 7 Rajputs and 2 Brahmins. The JDU, on the advice of BJP strategists, gave tickets to 18 Yadav candidates.
“This is a social experiment that is being done by the BJP leaders in the state for the last two elections—that of giving a larger representation to the Yadavs in ticket distribution, which explains the fact that while the Brahmin NDA candidates from the total 225 seats (BJP 110-JDU-115) were 13, Bhumihars got 25, the Yadavs got 33 seats,” the party strategist quoted above said.
However, this “experiment”, according to party strategists, has failed to garner the kind of support from the Yadav community that the BJP was hoping for; rather it has alienated the traditional Brahmin and Bhumihar voters.