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Caste matters for ex-officials in choosing Bihar seat (Election Special)

Read more on:    Bihar | Election | Lok Sabha
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Former officials, including those from the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS), seem to have kept caste equation in mind while choosing the constituency from which they want to contest the . Half a dozen former bureaucrats are in the political fray in caste-ridden .

R.K. Singh, a Bihar cadre IAS officer who is a former union home secretary, is contesting the Ara seat as a BJP candidate.

"After Singh joined the BJP, the party has fielded him from Ara taking the caste factor in his favour," a BJP leader said.

For Singh, a Rajput, an influential upper caste, and native of state's Supaul district, Ara is considered to be a safe seat with a strong presence of his caste men and other upper castes.

"If R.K. Singh has taken the poll plunge to make a difference in politics, he should have contested from Supaul or Madhepura. Why is he contesting from Ara? It raised many eyebrows as it is a sign of the caste factor," said Ranjeev, a political analyst here.

Bihar's ruling JD-U's sitting MP Meena Singh is also a Rajput. She is in the fray again.

Former commissioner of Delhi Police Nikhil Kumar, a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, is contesting the Lok Sabha poll from Aurangabad as a Congress candidate. He too seemed to have taken the caste factor into consideration.

Kumar, a Rajput, resigned as Kerala Governor, and represented Aurangabad as MP in the past. He is confident of winning the seat considered a traditional seat of his family due to the strong presence of his caste men.

Aurangabad is considered a stronghold of Rajputs in state politics.

The ruling JD-U expelled its sitting MP from Aurangabad Sushil Kumar Singh, who is contesting as the BJP candidate. He is a Rajput.

The JD-U has fielded former Bihar cadre IAS officer K.P. Ramiah for the Sasaram seat. Ramiah, a Dalit, is a native of Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, who took voluntary retirement last month. He joined the JD-U last week and is eyeing the strong presence of Mahadalits, poorest among Dalits, to decide his fate.

Ramiah, who helped Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to implement several development and empowerment schemes for Mahadalits, is confident to get their support.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is the sitting Congress MP from Sasaram. She is a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer and daughter of late Congress leader Babu Jagjivan Ram, a veteran Dalit leader.

Another retired IAS officer Pancham Lal is not as lucky as Ramiah. Lal, a native of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, tried for a ticket from national as well as regional parties to contest the Lok Sabha poll, but failed. Now Lal, a Dalit, is contesting for the Patliputra seat in Patna as a Forward Bloc candidate.

He said that for him a win or a defeat doesn't matter. "What is important is to raise the cause of the oppressed and weaker sections, who are exploited and victimized."

With three Yadav caste candidates, including former RJD leader and now BJP's Ram Kirpal Yadav, JD-U's Ranjan Prasad Yadav and Lalu Prasad's elder daughter Misa Bharti in fray in Patliputra, Lal is eyeing the nearly 250,000 Dalits votes in the constituency.

Former Bihar police chief and RJD leader Ashish Ranjan Sinha joined the Congress early this week to contest the Lok Sabha poll from the Nalanda constituency, a home turf of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Sinha is a Kurmi - a backward caste - and was nominated by the Congress for Nalanda, locally known as 'Kurmistan' due to the dominance of his caste. He is a native of Nalanda.

Sinha, considered close to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, was hopeful that his name will figure in the list of RJD candidates for the polls, but his name was dropped due to an alliance with Congress.

"Sinha was keen to contest from Nalanda and the seat went to the Congress under the alliance. Lalu has provided a strong candidate to the Congress from Nalanda," a RJD leader said, indicating that despite an alliance, Sinha was able to become the Congress candidate thanks to Lalu.

Ruling Janata Dal-United's Kausalendra Kumar, a Kurmi, is sitting MP of Nalanda and contesting the poll again this time.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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