PATNA: With demands for reservation for the poor among the upper castes emerging as a major issue ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls, Bihar’s main Opposition party, the RJD, has chosen to stay firmly with its core support base of OBCs and Muslims while wooing the Dalits.
Two bandhs organised by upper-caste communities — August 30 and September 6 — against the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, have forced political parties in the state to weigh their options. While the ruling JD(U) remains undecided amid a division of opinion in its top echelons, its ally BJP is yet to open its cards even as LJP has been demanding 15 per cent reservation for the economically backward among the upper castes.
In the Opposition grand alliance, Congress and Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) expressed support for reservation for the upper caste poor. Seeking to win back the support of Muslims and upper castes, senior Congress leaders have demanded reservation benefits for both sections.
Disagreements in the grand alliance over the issue surfaced when Dalit leader and HAM chief Jitan Ram Manjhi supported reservation for the upper-caste poor, but another Dalit leader, Uday Narayan Chaudhary, stridently opposed it.
With the discordant notes rising, all eyes were on RJD, the biggest party in the alliance. After a meeting with top RJD leaders, Tejashwi Yadav, who virtually controls RJD ever since his father and party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has been jailed, discarded the calls for reservation for the upper-caste poor and accused BJP and RSS of diluting the protection of the rights of the SC & ST communities. RJD’s senior upper caste leaders such as Shivanand Tiwary, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Jagadanand Singh strongly backed Tejashwi on the issue.
“Economic backwardness has nothing to do with reservation. The provision was included in the Constitution on the basis of discrimination, untouchability and educational backwardness,” said Tiwary.
By rejecting the demands for reservation for the upper caste poor, RJD aims at retaining its dependable hold on the OBC and Muslim vote base and expanding it to the Dalits in the poll season, said party sources.
“The upper castes in Bihar hardly ever vote for RJD,” said a senior party leader. RJD sources said the party was miffed at Congress leaders voicing support for reservation for the upper caste poor without consulting it.