Nitish`s EBC-Mahadalit formula face a litmus test in Magadh

Youths are neither visible in the Dalit hamlets of Amethi, Aropur, Aurail, Mohda, Shahzadpur or Jethian nor is there any sign of activity in the villages though hardly a week is left for the polls.

Gaya: Youths are neither visible in the
Dalit hamlets of Amethi, Aropur, Aurail, Mohda, Shahzadpur or Jethian nor is there any sign of activity in the villages though hardly a week is left for the polls.

The scene is same in the Mushar dominated Karzani,
Gandhinagar, Vanshibigaha, Bara, Pathora and Navadih areas.

Villager Sari Manjhi explains, "Youths are not at
homes. They have left in September itself to work at brick
kilns in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharasthra. They are found
in villages only for three months during the rainy season
between June and August.

"And here in lies the challenge for Nitish Kumar`s
party, which had pinned great hopes on its social engineering
formulae after constituting separate Commissions for the
Extremely Backward Castes and Mahadalits and announcing
benefits for them.

The move, NDA supporters claim, has ruptured the OBC
and Dalit vote bases of Lalu Prasad`s RJD and Ram Vilas
Paswan`s LJP.

Though Kumar`s party has been able to create a
"goodwill" among the Mahadalits, which represent a medley
group of odd 20 castes from the Scheduled Caste category, the
goodwill is unlikely to come to the party`s rescue as youths,
who could have voted are not in their villages.

"What can be done. There is no rain for the last two
years. And hence 90 per cent youth have already migrated.They
have gone there to eke out a living as there is no job here.
Sometimes even the entire family migrates as brick kiln owners
ensure regular employment for eight to nine months. This is
the peak season for brick kilns.So they are there," says
Ramdip Manjhi at Dashrath Nagar in Atari Assembly constituency
of Gaya.

In the reserved constituency of Bodhgaya, the place of
international pilgrimage, the children of the Mushar community
from Ransingh Premdasa Budhgaya Gama founded by a former Sri
Lankan President, are seen begging outside Mahabodhi temple.

"Not all children but quite a few go there for begging. That
brings in some additional earning," says Shankar Manjhi.
Complaints of lack of employment are galore.

The locality is also known for brewing illicit liquor.
"It`s election time and the police have acted tough.So
no more mahua brewing and the trouble is all the more for us,"
says a village woman.

"And as such social engineering forumla of Nitish
Kumar faces an acid test as the assembly elections enter the
cauldron of caste politics in South Bihar in its fifth phase.

15 of the 35 seats that go to polls in this phase, fall in
Magadh region, the laboratory of ultra left movements, which
has recorded internecine caste wars and led to divisions even
in the Naxal movement on caste lines.

The constituencies of Bhojpur and Nalanda districts
also go to polls in this phase.

A large number of these constituencies have sizeable
Mahadalit and EBC population, which till the last elections
were strong support base of Lalu Prasad`s RJD and Ram Vilas
Paswan`s LJP.

This particular support base coupled with Muslim Yadav
(MY) combination of Prasad ensured that Prasad`s party could
win eight of the 26 seats in Magadh division spread across
Gaya, Jehanabad, Nawada, Aurangabad and Arwal in the last
assembly election even as there was a strong anti-Lalu wave in
the state.

JD-U could win seven seats while its alliance partner
BJP could win four seats. Ram Vilas Paswan`s LJP which fought
alone had bagged three seats.

Almost half of the seats were closely contested with
the victory margins in some of them being just a few hundreds.
RJD was runner-up in 11 other constituencies.This time both
RJD and LJP are contesting in an alliance and pose a tough
challenge to NDA here.
While Mushars, also called Bhuiyans constitute a major
chunk of the Scheduled Caste population which is around 30
percent of total voters in these constituencies, Paswans and
Ravidas follow closely.

Mushars appear shifting towards JD-U while Paswan
community members show a inclination towards RJD-LJP combine.

Ravidas, who are called Jatav in Uttar Pradesh have
shown a preference towards Mayawati`s party, which has fielded
candidates with a proper strategy in Magadh region.
BSP has fielded a Brahmin candidate in the pilgrimage
town of Gaya, a Yadav candidate in Wajirganj, a tactical move
to consolidate OBC and Dalit votes where the contest was
mainly between two upper caste candidates fielded by Congress
and BJP.

Though her party may not win many seats, the
elephant can well trample the prospects of many. Seven of the
35 constituencies in this phase are reserved for Dalilts and
the fight in the fifth phase promises to be an interesting
one.

Bureau Report

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