Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) could likely be the single largest party in Bihar elections and the opposition alliance or the Mahagathbandhan could form the next government in the state, various exit polls released on Saturday suggested. With heavyweights such as Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan out of the political circuit, and Nitish Kumar fighting a strong anti-incumbency, Bihar’s voters seemed to have finally got over their more than three-decade-old ‘Mandal hangover’.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s participation in the JP movement of the 1970s against Congress, marked the inception of his political career. Yadav became Bihar’s Chief Minister in the 1990s and his party- the Rashtriya Janata Dal ruled the state for 15 years.
RJD came to power after a political flux in the state. After independence, Shri Krishna Sinha ruled Bihar for 15 years till his death in 1961, following which the state went into political flux.
The state politics took an interesting turn in the 1990s as the next three decades were ruled by heavyweights- RJD and JD(U), both ruling for three terms each.
What is interesting to note is that the rule of the RJD came amid the Mandal Commission report which declared affirmative action for the newly created caste group- ‘Other Backward Castes’ or the OBCs. The Mandal politics since the 1990s is referred to as the ‘silent revolution’, by Cristopher Jaffrelot- Political Science professor at the Sciences Po, Paris.
The Mandal politics triggered a socio-political process that resulted in some social emancipation and the rise to the political power of plebeians at the expense of the upper and dominant castes, Jaffrelot said.
It swept North India and was seen in the form of ‘Samajwadi’ or socialist movement in Uttar Pradesh where two main blocs- the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) always remained at the helm of affairs in the state.
Political commentators say that the politics in these states have always been against the desire of parties in the Centre, which have been dominated by upper castes. The Congress and the BJP have to either form alliances with the parties in these states or have the minimum presence in the assembly.
However, UP remained an exception as the BJP got a landslide victory in the 2017 assembly polls. While the same party has to portray Nitish Kumar as the CM candidate without any if/but in Bihar. On the other hand, Congress remained a minimal force both in UP and Bihar.
“There was a notion of jungle raj in Bihar, but at the same time, there was a movement going on for social justice in the state. Till the late 1990s, there wasn’t much improvement in other states as well till the government went ahead with participation,” a social worker based in Patna said.