Former home secretary battles caste in Bihar

Ara: Having shed his official attire for dhoti and kurta, former Indian home secretary RK Singh has realised that caste matters most in elections -- certainly in Bihar.

The BJP fielded RK Singh, an ex-IAS officer,in the Ara Lok Sabha constituency as he is a Rajput and the community has a strong presence in the area.

"Initially he was not ready to give up his old style," a local BJP leader confided to a news agency. But party activists convinced him to get into a dress that would be acceptable to the local electorate.

Ara was widely considered a safe seat for the BJP, which believes the upper caste presence along with "a pro-Narendra Modi wave" will help RK Singh to win. Though the Janata Dal-United candidate and outgoing MP Meena Singh is also a Rajput, RK Singh's candidature has changed the caste equations in the constituency.

RJD's candidate Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha is a Koeri, a backward agrarian caste. The CPI-ML candidate, Raju Yadav, eyes the votes of communities other than upper castes.

"Politicians and people are talking about development, ideology and candidates. But it is caste that will determine the vote," said Ramavatar Singh of the Shivganj locality in Ara, about 60 km from Patna.

Dhananjay Prasad, in his late 40s, agreed: "Look, caste will play a more important role (than anything else)."

According to Ara resident Saquib Alam, Muslims are a divided lot, torn between the pulls of the RJD, JD-U and the CPI-ML.

Unlike in the urban pockets, the division between the forward and backward castes in rural areas is evident.

The upper castes -- Rajputs, Bhumihars and Brahmins -- are divided too. Should they back RK Singh or not?

But Bharatiya Janata Party activists seem confident that RK Singh has an edge over everyone, thanks to the appeal of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

IANS
First Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 12:42
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