Bihar polls: Manjhi's poll promise has upper castes worried
Patna: Upper castes, the BJP's traditional support base, have expressed their anger after the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) - a member of the BJP-led alliance - promised job reservations in the private sector if voted to power.
The poll promise may put HAM in trouble as it too is eyeing overwhelming support from the upper castes, besides some backward castes and Dalits.
At a time when the BJP is trying hard to convince Dalits, OBCs, EBCs that it has nothing to do with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's demand to review the reservation policy, its ally HAM by promising job reservation in the private sector has landed the party in a soup.
"The BJP should explain its stand on job reservation in private sector promised by the HAM. How can we support a party like HAM, which is keen to snatch our private sector jobs," said Rahul Kumar Singh, in his mid 20s, who belongs to the powerful upper caste - Rajput.
Singh is a post graduate student in Patna and is preparing for examinations for government jobs.
Ajit Sharma, in his early 20s, who belongs to the landed upper caste, said the BJP should not expect them to support its ally HAM.
"Why should we vote for HAM that has promised job reservation in private sector. There is little scope for us as far as government jobs matter, now even private jobs will be reserved," Sharma, who is pursuing a computer course, said.
The HAM manifesto, released by party chief and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, on Saturday promised that the party would strive for job reservation in the private sector if the BJP-led alliance comes to power.
Manjhi is a strong supporter of job reservation in the private sector.
Manjhi, who has emerged as an icon among sections of Dalits, is playing the job reservation in the private sector card to counter Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad's attempt to turn the Bihar polls into a fight between forwards and backwards.
The HAM is contesting 20 of the 243 assembly seats, the BJP is contesting 160 seats, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) 40 and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) 23 seats.
However, BJP leaders as well as its two allies LJP of union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and RLSP of union minister Upender Kushwaha are tight lipped about job reservations in the private sector as promised by HAM.
Going by the NDA list of candidates for the Bihar polls, it is clear that the party is essentially relying on the upper castes in the five-phased election.
Of the 243 seats in the assembly, the four NDA parties have given tickets to 85 upper caste candidates, including 36 Rajputs and 28 Bhumihars. The upper castes constitute approximately 14 to 15 percent of the Bihar population.
On the other hand, the grand alliance of the Janata Dal-United, RJD and the Congress has fielded 64 Yadavs - 48 of them by the RJD alone - apart from 33 Muslims. It reflects Lalu's faith in his traditional social support base of MY (Muslim-Yadav).
The grand alliance is also relying heavily on the OBCs - Koeris and Kurmis. Thirty Koeris and 17 Kurmis, who belongs to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's caste, have been fielded by the alliance.