‘Brahmins given token representation in national and state executives’.
NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) which, under Tejashwi Yadav, is trying hard to present a new image of the party by moving beyond its decades-old “obsession” for Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) voters, has been accused by its own party members of alienating the Brahmins and giving them just a token representation in the newly formed national executive and the Bihar state executive.
With the Assembly elections in Bihar slated for October-November, Tejashwi Yadav had announced its new state executive comprising more than 200 members in February and the national executive in March, while claiming that the new teams were a way forward towards his intention of breaking the image that the RJD was just a forum for Muslim-Yadavs and backwards. The forward castes in Bihar include Brahmins (around 6%,) Rajput (5%), Bhumihar (5%) and Kayastha (1.5-2%) and comprise almost 18-20% of the total population of the state.
This step towards inclusiveness, Patna-based political observers note, was done by Tejashwi Yadav to present a credible choice for the voters of Bihar who, despite having no deep affection for the present political dispensation led by Nitish Kumar, were seen as not too keen towards RJD because of its image of being a party that only “panders” to Muslims and Yadavs.
While addressing the newly appointed state functionaries in Patna in February, Tejashwi Yadav had said that the RJD would not just be an “M-Y party” anymore, but it will be an “A-Z party” where representation to every community and caste would be given. This was seen as a radical political move by the party, whose topmost leader and former Chief Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, his detractors claim, when he was in his peak in the 1990s, used to openly say “Bhura Baal saaf karo” (Remove the people belonging to Bhumihar-Rajput-Brahmin-Laala community). Lalu Yadav, however, has denied ever giving this slogan. He has also clarified this in his autobiography “Gopalganj to Raisina”.
However, Brahmin party leaders who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, shared the caste composition of the newly formed national and the state executive of the party while stating that the representation given to the forwards and the Brahims was a case of “tokenism” and “symbolism”.
“Of the 65 members in the national executive, not even 5% of the members are from the Brahmin community. Manoj Jha (Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson) is a Brahmin, but he considers himself a Leftist “leader” and has never been a representative of the Brahmins of Bihar. He is not a mass leader. Similarly, Shivanand Tiwari (national vice president) is too “big” a leader to work among the grounded workers. He is 77 years old. It is very clear that Tejashwi Yadav’s action belies his words of making RJD an inclusive party that has moved beyond its contempt for the forwards in general and Brahmins in particular,” a senior party functionary said.
Similarly, in the 220 plus state executive list, these leaders said, the representation of the Brahims is “miniscule” while the “M-Y” representation was almost 85 or more than 1/3 of the total members.
“The forward caste does not have even 20 faces in the state executive. If RJD has to give a strong challenge to the NDA, it needs to take along voters of the forward caste, including Brahmins, Rajputs and Bhumihars and break the image that it is just a party for the “M-Y” and backwards. However, that does not seem to be happening,” another party functionary said.
According to him, of the 11 spokesperson that the party has, only two were from the forward caste, including Brahmin. “Spokesperson are considered to be the face of the party. In these 11, four are Yadavs, two Muslims, two Dalits, one extremely backward and two from the upper caste. Why would a voter from the forward caste vote for us when we are not even able to give a fair representation to the forward caste in our own organisation,” a party leader said.
In the caste break-up provided by the party leaders, out of the total 22 vice presidents, three were from the forward caste (two Rajputs and one Brahmin). Of the 105 plus general secretary, more than 30 were from the Yadav caste, while out of the 80 plus secretaries, more than 13 were Yadavs.
Avinash Ranjan Jha, party’s general secretary, however, claimed that the party had given representation to every caste. “There is a lot of discontent and a massive anti-incumbency in the heart of voters of Bihar against the present Nitish Kumar led NDA government. Our future Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav has shown (by the composition of the executive) that he will take every community and caste along towards building a bright future of Bihar. Voters from the forward caste should trust us and vote for us without having any doubts in their minds,” he said.
As per Patna-based party sources, the RJD leadership was mulling to give tickets to forward caste candidates in the coming polls for the Members of Legislative Council (MLC) elections so as to give a positive message to the voters for the upcoming Assembly elections. “Candidate selection for MLC elections will be a good platform to convince the forward caste that the RJD is truly ready to take them along too. As of now, the upper caste have no options, but to vote for the BJP since it is the only party that has been giving them a platform,” a party leader said.