Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bihar trades caste stripes for #AAP spots

Patna: On a soporific afternoon, Munawwar Ali has nothing much to do at the bakery-cum-ration store he runs in the Razabazar area of Patna. He spents most of his time taking naps. Occasionally, he is interrupted by some customers. This is the same area in which Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Patna Sahib, Parveen Amanullah, is contesting against Shatrughan Sinha from BJP and Gopal Prasad Sinha from JD(U).

A party, which is struggling to find a foothold in a caste-ridden state such as Bihar, is perceived sometimes with cynicism, sometimes with skepticism and sometimes with hope. In the state, where the minority communities will only prefer voting for a candidate, who will stand up to the BJP, AAP has somewhat succeeded in uniting the people from across castes on the issues of anti-corruption, Swaraj, and transparency. This number, however, is miniscule and will not have any major electoral impact.

Some 50-60 people gathered at Razabar area during Amanullah's campaign near Munawwar Ali's shop. But he is not impressed. "Aam Aadmi Party does not have a presence here. We will vote for JD (U)," said Ali. Interestingly, Amanullah was a minister in the ruling JD (U) government. She resigned in February to join AAP.

A social worker based in the area told dna on condition of anonymity, "Muslims are very sentimental. She did not go to any Muslim homes when she was a minister in the Nitish Kumar government. The Muslim community will vote for the Congress or RJD or JD(U), wherever they find them strong enough to defeat the BJP."

This essentially means that despite CM Nitish Kumar's decision to call off the alliance with the BJP over Narendra Modi's PM candidature, the community will not lap him up and will remain divided. This is how AAP's reorientation of caste equations, even though in a small number, is getting support from the youth in the state. In the party's election office in Patna, AAP supporter Prem Prakash told dna, "Whoever comes here, comes because he has a grudge against the system and would like to better it. And people from all backgrounds come here. The rich, the poor, the forward, the backwards. The doors are open for all."

Claiming that it is a misnomer spread by the other parties that the middle-class supporters, who voted for the party in New Delhi last year, have deserted the party, Amanullah told dna, "It is not true. People from all backgrounds who believe in anti-corruption and Swaraj are coming here. Even in Delhi, the middle-class voters are with the party and their support base is intact."

With the party's membership growing from the current 13 lakh, it is not for nothing that the party has fielded 28 candidates for the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

Amanullah, meanwhile, has been campaigning from dawn to the dusk to garner support for the party.

By: Ashutosh Kumar

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