The state should show the country that caste has no place in new India
Prahlad Rao | October 5, 2015 | New Delhi
Should caste make sense when development brings a generation of changes? Is Lalu Prasad Yadav relevant in Bihar?
Bihar may not change overnight but it can make an attempt in this assembly elections. The state did try to make a break from the past a decade back but can it surprise itself again on November 8?
Prime minister Narendra Modi, in his first rally in Bihar after the announcement of polls, made a strong development pitch in Banka town.
"You witnessed many things in the past. Samantvad, punjiwad, ahankarvad, algaowad aur vasnhwad (feudalism, capitalism, egoism, separatism, family politics)... You experimented with everything. I appeal you to once vote for vikaswad (development)," the PM told voters in Bihar last Friday.
The PM’s Friday rally saw nearly two-lakh people from Banka district and its neighbouring areas attend. Exuding confidence over the NDA's victory in the upcoming Assembly election in Bihar, Modi said the state would celebrate Diwali twice this year, given the overwhelming support of the people for his alliance.
"The first Diwali will be celebrated on the day of the counting of votes and the second will follow during the festival of lights thereafter," he said.
The prime minister asserted that he had loosened the Centre's purse strings for Bihar's development. "But I have not obliged the state in any manner. It is the right of the people of Bihar. It is my primary responsibility to help it make rapid strides on the growth path," he said. "We have to change the face and fortunes of the state."
Calling upon the voters to elect a strong and stable government in Bihar, Modi said that his alliance was contesting the polls on the issue of development alone. "Development is the key to solving all problems," he said.
The prime minister said that India's progress was not possible if Bihar was left behind on the parameters of development.
But, what is Lalu Prasad’s calling card? It is still caste. He is determined to keep the focus on caste divide. Caste is central to Bihar politics, the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader said in an interview, projecting the upcoming polls as a battle between the upper castes represented by the BJP-led alliance and the backward castes under the Grand Alliance, which includes his party.
"You cannot ignore caste. It is a reality in India," Prasad said, seemingly undeterred by an Election Commission probe that he faces for raking up caste in a rally. "There are castes in animal world too. Elephants have castes. It is not a dirty word," he added.
Linking caste to economic backwardness and reservation, Prasad quoted from the Constitution, Parliament debates and statistics culled from the central government's Socio-Economic Caste Census. Armed with statistics from the caste census, he reeled off the figures — manual casual labourers, 51%; families living in one-room kuchcha house, 14%; landless households, 30%.
"Go and ask people living in these conditions their caste and you will know. The government does not give even a second glance at the poor," he said. Lalu forgets that he and his family was the government for long.
Equating caste with economic status, Prasad repeated his demand that the BJP government at the Centre make the caste data public. "The government is behaving like Soordas. How can they plan properly without taking the caste figures into account? The Constitution says that reservation has to be as per population," he said. "Bhagwat blurted out the mann ki baat (real view) of RSS and BJP." Prasad said BJP has already started the process of scrapping reservation in Rajasthan. "In Haryana, only a class-X pass person can contest panchayat elections. We all know, who all will be excluded in the process," he said.
Pointing out that attempts were made earlier to introduce graduation as a criterion for contesting Lok Sabha elections, he said, "Thankfully that did not happen. Atal Behari Vajpayee lost elections to a less-educated candidate."
He further said, referring to his wife, "When Rabri won elections and became chief minister, they ridiculed her. First, you keep all backwards and weaker sections on the back bench, and then say they don't require reservations. A total revolution is needed to bring them into the mainstream."
But, can Bihar afford another long and chaotic reign of Lalu and his cast to run politics of casteism? Development of people through education and industrial progress is what Bihar needs.
On Monday BJP president Amit Shah emphasised that the real issue in these elections is Bihar’s development and that his party and its allies are fighting the polls to bring about progress in the state.
“People of Bihar know that the development of the state is not possible under the jungle raj of Lalu and amid the corruption of Congress. Anyone can see the graph of growth in the state’s where the BJP is in power. They will be able to see that every village has electricity 24 hours a day, water, schools and teachers. If NDA forms a government, Bihar will develop at a faster pace,” he said.
How fast, we cannot predict. But the state of Bihar has to develop and its people should not be migrating to Bengal, Delhi or far south for work. They have to build Bihar and Lalu Yadav is a misfit in the development plan.
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