New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appears to be leading the onslaught of the INDIA bloc against the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The Janata Dal United strongman has for now been seemingly successful in trapping the saffron unit in the maze of Mandal politics after two bold moves that have completely outfoxed the ruling BJP.
Within the past few weeks, even as campaigning for the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Telangana and Rajasthan is on, Nitish has been successful in turning the buzz regarding the inauguration of Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya into a discussion on enhanced reservation for the backward castes.
In Bihar, an experiment in the form of increased reservation from 60 per cent (including 10 per cent to EWS) to 75 per cent has just been unleashed. This comes days after the Bihar government survey on OBCs was tabled in the state legislature and a demand for a similar caste census to be conducted across the nation.
These two moves have completely flummoxed the BJP, which can in no way be seen as opposed to them as it would then risk losing a major chunk of its support amongst the backward caste Hindu voters, sources said.
In fact, the BJP has ensured that it is seen supporting the two moves, dubbed as ones to bring forth social justice. The party leadership has gone ahead and given support to these moves in an effort to blunt the effect of these on the targeted voters amongst backward castes. The saffron unit doesn’t want to give a perception that it is in any way against the proposed moves towards social justice, sources said.
With the Ram Janmabhoomi temple frenzy picking up amid ongoing assembly polls campaigning, the INDIA bloc has made this desperate move to trounce “Kamandal” by introducing the “Mandal” element ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The saffron leadership knows that the caste factor has been unleashed to test the waters and ensure a division of Hindu community votes ahead of the crucial general elections next year. The INDIA bloc is desperate to put a stop to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third attempt at the top executive position.
The BJP’s confidence in winning the 2024 contest riding on the back of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple construction in Ayodhya has been considerably shaken after the INDIA bloc’s attempts to create fissures in the Hindu vote bank.
Why is the INDIA bloc hoping for Mandal vs Kamandal?
INDIA bloc allies are well aware that they do not stand a chance at winning the 2024 Lok Sabha polls if the Hindu vote stands united. By pushing for the agenda of “social empowerment” and “Mandal politics” the opposition hopes to cut enough votes in the general elections so as to deny a clear majority to the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance.
The opposition feels that the votes of minority communities, combined with caste affiliates and loyalists of various partners would help it increase the INDIA bloc’s seat output in next year’s general elections, sources said.
The BJP, meanwhile, hopes that the unveiling of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya and the fact that PM Modi, who hails from the Other Backward Class Teli community, will also work in its favour.
During campaigning for the ongoing assembly polls, PM Modi has also pointed towards these division attempts by the opposition and said “INDI alliance wants to divide Hindus” and has claimed that the “poor of this country are the biggest caste”.
With Hindu society being highly caste-sensitive, any factor related to these is expected to affect poll outcomes. The next few months would be highly critical for the BJP as it hopes to formulate a strategy to consolidate the Hindu voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and ensure a comeback for PM Modi.