Jhakhand outsmarts Bihar in caste politics
Jharkhand seems to be outsmarting big brother Bihar in caste politics with many caste-based organisations having cropped up here during the last six months.
While the leaders in Bihar subscribe to their respective parties' caste equations, the Jharkhand politicians, particularly those in the Government, even threaten to pull down their own Government if it furthers the cause of their castemen.
Consider this: There may be leaders, both from "backward" and "upper" castes in Bihar's ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), but they swear by the Muslim-Yadav unity which is the political mainstay of the party. In Jharkhand, such ideological commitment is passe. The motley group of parties that constitute the ruling alliance here, are more loyal towards their caste/community.
Only recently, the Kurmis organised a Maha Rally in the State Capital, where the speakers criticised the Government on the Panchayati Raj Bill providing 80 per cent reservation in scheduled areas and 60 per cent in non-scheduled areas. The Kurmis are now demanding that they be included in the list of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) "as it was before 1932".
Four Kurmi ministers in the Babu Lal Marandi Government even said that they would tender their resignations and prop up an alternative arrangement if it is led by a Kurmi. And then
The ministers who attended the rally included Power Minister Lal Chand Mahto (JD-U), PHED Minister Jaleshwar Mahto (Samata Party), Land Revenue Minister Madu Singh (Samata Party) and Road Construction Minister Sudesh Mahto. The MPs included Abha Mahto and Mr Teklal Mahto, while a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) MP Ram Tahal Chaudhari also attended the Maha Rally.
Incidentally, Mr Chaudhari and another BJP MP from Orissa, Mr Salkhan Murmu, are spearheading agitations in support of their respective communities. While Mr Chaudhari has openly criticised Chief Minister Babu Lal Marandi on Panchayat Bill, Murmu has floated an Adivasi Janadhikar Manch which is demanding 60 per cent reservation for tribals. Mr Chaudhari is demanding 27 per cent reservation for Kurmis in Panchayat.
Mr Baccha Singh, Minister and Samata Party leader, said, "Reservation quota should not exceed the 50 per cent mark." Another Samata Party Minister, Mr Jalehawar Mahto, favoured reservation on caste percentage.
Besides the tribals and Kurmis, the traders have also formed an organisation called Vaishya Samaj and organised a dharna demanding their inclusion in Annexture 1 of the backward class.
The Scheduled Castes (SCs) are also demanding 18 per cent reservation for themselves. "The Government can not ignore us," former BJP MP Upendranath Das said.
Political observers say while the tribal organisations were stepping up their agitation to oust what they call "Dikkus" (the outsiders) the Kurmis are trying to unite all the non-tribal groups including the Muslims to wrest power. However, Chief Minister Babu Lal Marandi belongs to a tribal community.
The Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Muslims and Kurmi leaders from parties like the RJD were said to have extended their full support to the Kurmi Maha Rally on May 25. The speakers at the rally said the tribals constituted only 27 per cent of the total population so how could they be allowed to rule 73 per cent reservation. The leaders belonging to the Kurmi caste said they represent interest of 73 per cent population.
"If the agitation over reservation and the Panchayat Bill is allowed to continue it is bound to create a law and order problem in the State," an intelligence official said in condition of anonymity. Political observers also say if the tribal and other caste agitations over reservation is not discouraged it is going to create a virtual Assam-like situation in the State. "The Christian missionaries too are fuelling the issue," a high placed source confided.