Monday, April 13, 2009

Progress good, casteism better


Maharajganj (Bihar), April 12: In 2009, RJD boss Lalu Prasad’s time-tested formula of caste and PLU (people like us) politics is receiving some competition from Nitish Kumar’s development issue — probably being heard for the first time in the state.

However, progress is not a strong enough word to drown murmurs of community clique in Bihar.

That the state has witnessed some amount of progress is apparent with vehicles speeding over newly built or renovated highways and with the countryside dotted with renovated buildings and schools. But, a section of voters from all communities — either Muslim, or Yadav, or Paswan or an “upper caste” — are looking beyond the progress factor.

Congress, in the poll on its own for the first time since 1996, along with the BSP, are trying to make the triangular battle into a four-cornered one in 13 constituencies going to the polls on April 16.

Given that it is a poll to elect a central government, ideally it should have been a battle among the Congress-led UPA, the BJP-led NDA and the Third Front. But, in Bihar the battle is between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.

“We will vote for Lalu Prasad for he will lead us to a secular government. We will never vote for Nitish’s JD(U) that is with the NDA, or for BSP nominee Salim Parvej, as BSP may go the BJP way,” said Md Jubeir at Bela in Saran where BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudi is also working hard to wrest power from Lalu Prasad.

On the other hand, Amaresh Sharma, a member of the “upper” caste Bhumihar community is a staunch supporter of the BJP and thus the JD(U). Sharma and Jubeir would rather think in terms of community than development while trying to explain their politics and preference.

Yet another interesting factor in the polls is the presence of “dons”.

Though voters in the state’s capital wish to believe that dons are robbed of their clout the moment they are put behind bars, the reality is that status quo continues even after imprisonment.

Take Siwan don Md Shahabuddin for instance. His burqa-clad wife Heena Sahab is causing sleepless nights to political rivals by simply waving to supporters.

Shahbuddin’s terror infrastructure — put in place over the past four Lok Sabha elections and still in its place — is doing the rest. Siwan’s JD(U) nominee Brishen Patel, for who chief minister Nitish Kumar has addressed five and more meetings so far, seems to be the weaker candidate.

Then there is JD(U) don and candidate Prabhunath Singh who appears to be the favourite from Maharajganj seat. “I am ready to give my blood for Prabhunath (a Rajput),” said a 20-year-old Rajput youth at Rasulpur.

In the south of Ganga (Buxar, Karakat, Aurangabad, Sasaram, Ara, Jehanabad and Nawada) the development issue is being highlighted, but caste, or better still clique, still pulls the strings.

The numerically preponderant Paswans are ready to pitch in their support for Ram Vilas Paswan.

Though there are murmurs of the “good” Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the young Rahul Gandhi, Congress nominees do not look strong enough in any of the seat.

And what must nettle Nitish Kumar, is the fact that voters in this part of the country have not warmed up to the idea of L.K. Advani as a prime ministerial candidate.

Source : Telegraphindia