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Muslims are real king makers in Bihar
Friday March 28, 2014 11:05 AM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

It is often said that the road to the Lok Sabha passes through Bihar. Even though the state sends only 40 members to the lower house, it has traditionally played a significant role in the government formation at the centre.

Muslim Vote in Bihar

One of the most conspicuous things about the Bihar politics is the caste combination that each political party tries to forge for forming a winning combination in the state. This stark reality is caste is the deciding factor in Bihar politics.

The JDU, the RJD, the BJP, the Congress, the LJP and the left, each of them having captive caste vote bank.

The JDU led by Nitish Kumar has cemented his caste combination very smartly. It's a combination of Maha-Dalits, backwards and extremely backwards, plus the Muslims. This is a very formidable combination.

The RJD has its vote bank among the Yadavs and the OBC class plus the Muslims. It was winnable combination for a long time and was called MY (Muslims +Yadavs), till the JDU came from behind to upset this applecart.

The BJP's vote bank is the Upper Castes and the Banias mostly concentrated in urban areas. The BJP is trying to woo the OBC. It has aligned with the LJP to capture its 6 per cent of the Paswan votes in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It has got Koiri caste leader Upendra Kushwaha to its side that has 5 per cent vote.

The vote bank of the LJP is same as that of the RJD, with Yadav and Paswan remaining in their respective camps. The OBC Dalit and Muslims are seen as transferable votes, which can switch sides to parties that favor them the most during elections.

The Congress which mainly had upper caste and Muslims vote bank is marginalized in the state. Currently, its strength is considerably reduced due to the migration of the votes to other parties.

The left parties still have some presence in the Bihar. The feudal society of Bihar has large number of farm- less workers that are its vote bank. The left has strong presence in areas where Maoist holds sway.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election RJD and Congress have formed a pre poll alliance, so has the BJP and the LJP. The JDU is going alone after splitting from the BJP.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections the JDU got 24 percent of votes, the RJD 19 per cent, the BJP 14 per cent, the Congress 10 per cent and the LJP 7 per cent of votes.

The JDU and BJP were in alliance in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and together cornered 38 per cent of votes. The Congress and the RJD were in alliance then and got 29 per cent of votes.

In 2014 Lok Sabha election, it remains to be seen how much per cent of votes the political parties may poll after combining with other parties or independently.

The main political force in Bihar is the JDU. In the last ten years of rule, Nitish Kumar has consolidated it vote bank among Maha-Dalits, backwards and extremely backward class. Plus it has a support of sizable Muslims in the state. After forming such caste combination, it has found BJP's Brahmin, Telis and Tantis vote bank to have become redundant. When Nitish Kumar became doubly sure of its formidable caste combination, JDU parted ways with the BJP. Nitish Kumar has put his political acumen at stake after deciding to part ways with the BJP and that is purely to woo the Muslim voters. Will his gamble pay, is something that remains to be seen.

Muslims are the real king makers in Bihar. It's 17 per cent votes are sought by all the parties to turn around their fortunes. Muslims deserted Congress in the nineties and preferred RJD that made Lalu Prasad Yadav, a hero in the country. However, they realized Yadav to be just a talk shop who did nothing for them, they switched their support to Nitish Kumar, even though he was in alliance with the BJP.

However, Muslims are facing a dilemma in 2014 Lok Sabha election in Bihar. Whether to vote for Congress-RJD coalition and stop BJP's march to power at the centre or they vote for the JDU that may have little consequence on the government formation until the third front comes in picture, or JDU decides to support the UPA.

It is certain that Muslim vote may go to the JDU far in access to the RJD- Congress combine after it broke ties with the BJP. The RJD –Congress may still find some share of Muslim votes but definitely will be less than the share of the JDU. Muslims vote to the LJP will be considerably eroded after its alliance with the BJP.

The BJP is working overtime to find an answer to Nitish's formidable caste combination. Getting Ram Vilas Paswan and Koiri leader Upendra Kushwaha, on its side it has add OBC vote bank to its killy. It is also banking on the split in Muslim votes between JDU and RJD-Congress combine due to the moral dilemma that the community faces in the Lok Sabha polls.

In such context the most important question is what would be the per cent of vote share of the different parties in Bihar.

Everyone knows that the BJP was a junior partner in the JDU alliance. In the 2009 election it had 14 percent share that included the JDU votes as well. Whereas JDU had 24 percent of votes that included BJP votes as well. So with all permutation and combination put together, the realistic figure the BJP may have will be in teens. Added to it would be the LJP and the Koiris votes. This may stretch BJP combine vote share to 25 percent and not beyond.

In comparison, the JDU is harping on its winning caste combination and if the equation works in its favour and the Muslims back this party, JDU's share will be also around 25 per cent.

The RJD –Congress combine may still end up around same figures even in case of the split of Muslim votes in favor of the JDU. The RJD-Congress vote share too maybe 25 per cent.

Movement beyond the 25 per cent votes to all the three parties would mean that traditional networks of caste patronage are being disrupted in Bihar.

In such case all of them are giving neck to neck fight to all their opponents. If the 40 seats in Bihar is split into three, the JDU, RJD-Congress and the BJP-LGP, each may get 13 seats. Plus minus of 5 seats can make a huge ranking among the parties in the state. If we go by the current position, JDU is number one, RJD-Congress, number two and the BJP– LJP combine number three.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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