I have always shied away from calling myself even a panchayat election expert, let alone being one on Lok Sabha elections. For Lok Sabha elections, that too in constituencies in Bihar, there are so many variables that can have an effect on the results. From caste, religion, party, area, voting pattern, personal reach and status, alliance and tie-ups to how political campaigns are being telecast from TV studios on election eve, there are multiple factors that need to be taken into consideration.
For the past 15 years, we have seen how exit polls and opinion polls fall flat on the result day, barring one or two. Whosoever yells about being right, is not right by logical analysis but pure coincidence. If you ask them how they predicted the results, they will give you generic answers after results. Once the results are out, everyone starts to legitimise their words or the reasons why results came out the way it did. Pseudo-psephologists will explain how that candidate form that party said that thing that went against that candidate in that constituency. It is easier after the results.
The voters here in my region, Begusarai (Bihar), are so big smarty pants that when you ask him, “Kya chachaa, Kisko vote diye?” (Uncle, who did you vote for?), they will reply, “De diye kisi ko… kisi ko to diye hi hain…” (Voted for.. someone, yeah, someone got my vote.) If you push hard, they can name any random party. Although, some are pretty vocal about it, but mostly they say one thing, do another.
Exit polls or those predicting the outcomes can’t be believed for another reason which is the meagre sample size of these so-called surveys. In places where the margin of defeat is very small, you can’t ask a few people and make a prediction. When you see the sample sizes of these polls, you will realise they don’t even represent 1% of the universe. So, more often than not, they are wrong in their predictions.
Now, let’s discuss this case of Kanhaiya Kumar. I am from the same area in Begusarai, belong to the same caste, visit the villages more often than him, yet I didn’t write on his chances. But, when certain people sitting in Delhi started to write about caste equations and voting pattern of Begusarai, I thought, I should write about it.
For 15 years now, Begusarai has seen either BJP or NDA (JDU) candidates winning Lok Sabha elections. In 2004, 2009, and 2014, the MPs from Begusarai were Rajiv Ranjan Singh (JDU), Monazir Hasan (JDU) and Bhola Singh (BJP). If we talk about the MLAs from Begusarai, there are seven Vidhan Sabha constituencies. In 2015 elections, when JDU fought alone (not with BJP), it got two seats, Congress (in alliance with Lalu’s RJD) got two and RJD claimed 3 seats. On all the seven seats BJP or LJP came second.
We must also note that the voters in India vote two parties for two elections, held simultaneously. They will vote BJD for Odisha Vidhan Sabha and BJP for Lok Sabha. So, that pattern also can’t be ignored if we are basing our calculations on 2015 Bihar elections.
If we talk about 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Bhola singh was the winner, followed by RJD’s Tanveer Hassan and CPI’s Rajendra Prasad Singh at third place. Rajendra Prasad Singh reminds me of heydays of Left politics in Begusarai when in 1995, they won 5 Begusarai seats, followed by 2 each in 2000 and 2005 elections. That 2 became zero in 2015. This zero was looming large since 2014 Lok Sabha elections when their seasoned comrade Rajendra got the third place.
Rajendra Prasad Singh has held the Barauni Vidhan Sabha seat (now renamed Teghra) for 15 years, from 1995 to 2010. Begusarai is also sometimes referred as mini Moscow and Leningrad etc for the fact that it used to be a stronghold of Left in the nineties. However, soon people realised they were of no use and discarded their politics. What I mean to say is, three-time MLA’s caste and his vote base didn’t come to his rescue in 2014 and 2015 elections. And now, we have a person named Kanhaiya Kumar, best known in Begusarai for being the guy who was raising anti-national slogans.
Now, let’s talk about the voting pattern in Begusarai. Usually, people assume that Bihar elections are fought on caste lines as if elsewhere it is fought on any other agenda! So, websites and channels based in Delhi, write away that Begusarai is a bastion of Bhumihar caste. That’s not entirely true.
Demographic data shows Begusarai has 86% Hindus and 13% Muslims. Out of the Hindus, Bhumihar caste has around 8% population (around 6.4% of total). Even if we add Brahmin’s numbers, it fails to surpass Muslim numbers. Also, Yadav caste has almost 10% population. A large chunk of the Hindu population is smaller castes, or Dalits as it is said. These figures are approx and not accurate.
So, why is it called a Bhumihar bastion? It is for the fact that even with a small population, they are the ones who dictate the politics. Traditionally, the MPs and MLAs of this area have a better percentage of Bhumihars. That’s why assuming Bhumihars vote and choose a Bhumihar is not completely illogical.
But if Bhumihars chose Bhumihar candidate, how does Monazir Hassan win on JDU ticket? It is for the simple fact that most of the Bhumihars vote for party and symbol in big elections and not the caste. The caste of the candidate comes in play only when there is no candidate from BJP or its alliance. So, the upper caste vote wouldn’t get split towards Bhumihar Kanhaiya and Bhumihar Giriraj because Bhumihars vote even for Muslim candidate if he is a Monazir Hassan with BJP backed JDU symbol.
When I write ‘even for Muslims’, I mean to say this doesn’t happen in smaller elections. For example, the villages in my Panchayat, one is a Muslim-dominated village, two have prominent lower caste Dalit residents, and my village is Bhumihar dominated. Here, no Muslim ever votes for a Hindu mukhiya or sarpanch. Similarly, no Bhumihar will vote for a Muslim candidate. It is for the fact that there is no party affiliation. The moment there is this lotus or arrow symbol, irrespective of the name, upper caste ends up voting for them.
This complexity makes it difficult to apply the national or even state-level logic of caste in some regions of Bihar. It doesn’t work that way. Still, some people make the whole prediction reading some Facebook posts or watching their favourite TV channels without knowing the caste population or recent voting patterns.
Nowadays, the usual trending topic is Kanhaiya will get the benefit of being a Bhumihar. Since Kanhaiya Kumar’s ‘tukde-tukde’ incident, I have been to my village several times and people were not happy about a person from their land, and then their caste, being involved in anti-national sloganeering. This is not just a glancing observation, rather, it was with a lot of pain which was evident when they said out of disgust, “This guy is a blot on our caste and district’s name. How come someone from Begusarai become like this! Do they teach this shit in Delhi colleges?”
Being the land of Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, our national poet, it is a lot for Begusarai people to process when their district pops up in such a shameful manner. Incidentally, Kanhaiya’s home and Dinkar’s village are not more than a few kilometres apart. And, I can tell you he not very popular for his ‘freedom of expression’.
Kanhaiya can put up a fight with Giriraj singh in only two ways. The first option is to make Tanveer Hassan sit out, who was at number 2 in 2014, and Kanhaiya becomes the sole candidate of Mahagathbandhan. The second option is if Giriraj Singh gets furious about his constituency shift and decides to campaign against his own party.
That seems unlikely now. Muslims usually vote at once for Muslims, unless he/she is a BJP candidate. One can see the vote share of RJD’s Tanveer Hassan and Muslim’s voting population. Begusarai has a population of around 30 lakh, where Muslim numbers are around 4 lakh. The voters among Muslims number around 2.5 lakh. Total voters are around 18 lakh, and around 11 lakh go to vote if we take 60% voting in 2014 in consideration.
Tanveer got 3,69,892 votes. Two factors worked in his favour, one being a Muslim and another being a candidate from Lalu’s party. That means he, not only got the votes of Muslims, but also of Yadavs. That’s why he stood at second position trailing with 60,000 votes from the winner Bhola Singh. At the third position was another Bhumihar candidate, comrade Rajendra Prasad Singh, who got 1.92 lakh votes.
Along with this data, if we analyse 2009 election too, winner JDU’s Monazir Hasan and third place holder LJP’s Anil Choudhary combined vote share stood at 34%. Another Bhumihar giant, but from Left, got the second position with 1.62 lakh vote. The same CPI(M) got 1.92 lakh votes in 2014, but the vote share declined from 22% to 16%.
This is to say that Left has nowhere to go in Begusarai, the same pattern that it has followed around the world and India. Kanhaiya is from the same party, the same caste, but he lacks the public backing of Shatrughan Prasad and Rajendra Prasad, who are in active politics for decades. So, seeing this, being a Bhumihar and a young person, how many votes will Kanhaiya get will be a spectacle to behold.
Now, while BJP has replaced Bhola Singh with Giriraj Singh, RJD still has the same Tanveer Hassan, and the Left has fielded Kanhaiya in the place of seasoned leaders and 3-time MLA with good public backing. The old candidates from the Left party were also Bhumihars, and Kanhaiya, despite being a communist, yells about his caste as well.
I have place before you raw data. I explained the voting pattern. I wrote about caste and religion. I also informed about who won, and when. I gave you the population and demographics. If someone tells you that the real fight is between Tanveer Hassan and Kanhaiya, please ask them why did RJD kick Kanhaiya so far that he is fighting with their candidate despite falling for the feet of the thief Lalu Prasad Yadav?
Then, ask them have they ever visited Begusarai or do they assume stuff based on TV news and serial named Begusarai where they showed Rajputs being the dominant caste whose percentage starts after zero and decimal. That might be the reason why they conclude Begusarai is full of Bhumihars and Giriraj Singh is angry, so the votes will split!
Bhumihar votes doesn’t spilt, it gets to BJP or allies. Even after the assumed split, it has so much influence that despite fielding a Muslim candidate, BJP gets the win. Those looking for a story in Giriraj Singh’s anger over Nawada seat, they must know he is a cabinet minister. A person with a vision and common sense, however angry he might be, takes stock of the prevailing situation.
The man who is in power, wants to stay in power. Had he been pissed, he could have accepted Rahul Gandhi as his leader and filing nomination on Congress ticket from Nawada. I know this better why he frequents my village in functions like marriage or such gatherings of importance.
That’s why, when someone says that the real tight is between Tanveer Hassan and Kanhaiya Kumar, he/she might very well be analysing elections on Facebook, makes governments on Facebook, abuses governments on Facebook and fulfils his duties as a citizen on Facebook. Unless RJD asks Tanveer to stand down, Kanhaiya’s struggle would be to reach the tally of 1.92 lakh that his predecessor had in 2014.