Recently, my family in Bihar received a personalized poll campaign letter from the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). My family lives in a village named Rasulpur in Sonepur block of Saran district in Bihar. The letter has been written in Hindi and it is addressed to me in bold letters. The letter has full address of my home and it also lists my name and my younger brother’s name along with our voter identification numbers and father’s name. Interestingly it doesn’t mention my mother’s name which shows the Brahminic patriarchal way of BJP. My family was surprised and scared to receive the letter with such details. It is an evidence of BJP’s access to voter identification data with addresses and names which is a matter of concern. In the past, the Sang Parivar organisations have used such data to identify their victims. My mother says that she has been worried with the way BJP is trying to use every means to win the Bihar assembly election. A villager told her that there were attempts made to flare up communal tension in nearby villages. Fortunately, the local administration keeps check on such activities and deals with them very strictly. During the Loksabha elections in 2014, the communal agenda was pushed in Saran constituency, allegedly by the goons of Yogi Adityanath. Saran district is quite close to Gorakhpur, the border district of Uttar Pradesh and the constituency of Yogi Adityanath, next to the Gopalganj and Siwan districts in Bihar.
Sonepur constituency is an unreserved seat which will go for poll tomorrow on October 28 as part of the Phase 3 of Bihar assembly elections. Sonepur constituency has 2,56,197 eligible voters, out of whom 1,38,084 are male and 1,18,109 are female. Vinay Kumar Singh, the sitting MLA and an upper caste candidate from BJP and Ramanuj Prasad, a backward caste candidate from Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), are the two main contenders in the Sonepur constituency election. Sukhnanandan Singh Rathore, an upper caste candidate from the Communist Party of India (CPI), is contesting from this constituency too. In the 2010 assembly election, Vinay Kumar Singh had defeated Rabri Devi from this seat. However, in 2005 assembly election, Ramanuj Prasad had defeated Vinay Kumar Singh twice from this constituency. Sonepur constituency has been special for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav who had won assembly elections from this seat in 1980 and 1985.
It would be interesting to know the caste dynamics in my village Rasulpur which is largely populated by backward castes and extremely backward castes such as Yadav, Mahato, Fishermen castes, etc. It has a small number of Dalit and Muslim families, few upper caste families such as Bania and Brahmins but there is no Bhumihar or Rajput family in the village. The Rajput and other upper castes live in neighbouring villages where they have a significant population. Those upper caste villages had seen signifiers of development such as concrete roads, electricity and other civic amenities much before our village. At a very early age, I learnt the uncomfortable truth about voting pattern in the area. The upper castes in the neighbouring village choose to vote for the upper caste parties such as the BJP and also make sure that the lower castes in the village would do the same. As a resistance to the upper caste oppression, in my village the backward castes would vote for backward caste parties such as RJD. However, the media in Bihar would portray only RJD as a ‘casteist’ or ‘caste-based’ party, BJP gets the status of a ‘caste-less’ and ‘pro-development’ party in the media coverage. Growing up in Bihar amidst such biased media perception, I used to feel embarrassed to associate myself with a political party such as RJD and leaders such as Lalu Prasad Yadav.
In this assembly election, BJP has been trying to improvise its political strategy. I have never seen an active BJP campaign in my village; probably the upper caste leaders of BJP would have considered it as a waste of time to give importance to the backward castes dominated villages. This time it is different, the youth in my village were told about the backward caste background of Modi and promises of ‘development’ by the BJP workers as well as the upper caste media. However one cannot be sure of how much effective this strategy would be. It is hard for BJP to wash-off its upper caste image and the people in my village are quite aware of such ground realities. According to a media report, two weeks ago Modi was asked by a section of audience during a rally in Jehanabad to clear his stand on reservation. Modi avoided responding to that demand. A day ago, in another rally in Buxar, he made an extremely controversial statement that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are conspiring to take away five percent quota from Dalit, Mahadalit, backward and extremely backward caste for ‘another’ community. It seems that after the confrontation in the rally in Jehanabad, Modi got some tips on reservation from Mohan Bhagwat. Lalu Prasad Yadav has promised that if his alliance comes into power, they will increase the quota in proportion to the population. It would not be hard for the people in Bihar to figure out this contradiction.