Many Bihari Meanings of the Cult of Kanhaiya Kumar

Some Numbers

The population of Begusarai district was nearly 30 lakhs in the 2011 census. Given a 25% increase in the state population by 2018, it would be about 38 lakhs now. Of these, the registered voters are only 19 lakhs i.e. 50% of the population.

Since disproportionately larger numbers of upper caste educated well off people tend to get registered as compared to the marginalized, nearly 6 lakhs of the registered voters are from the upper castes of which the dominant Bhumihaars form the largest chunk :

Bhumihaars : 4 lakhs
Brahmins : 80 thousand
Rajputs : 75 thousand
Kayasths : 50 thousand
Total upper castes : approximately 6 lakhs

The other groups are as follows

Muslims : 3 lakhs
Lower castes : 10 lakhs
Yadavs : 2.25 lakhs
Kurmis : 1.5 lakhs
Kushwahas : 1 lakh
Mallahs : 1 .5 lakhs
Paswans : 1 lakh
Musahars : 75000

The remaining 2 lakhs are made up of, among backwards, Banias (approximately 70,000) among backwards, including Telis, Suris , Guptas , and others like Dhanuks, Nais etc ( say 1.25 lakhs). And among Dalits Dom, Chamar, Dhobi, Pasi and so forth (say 75000).

Going castewise, the upper caste vote except the Rajputs, who hate the Bhumihaars, will consolidate around the upper caste and / or, most likely, the BJP/ NDA candidate (say total 6 lakhs)

Half the Rajput vote though could go to RJD – Congress backed Maha Gath Bandhan (MGB Grand Alliance)

So Upper caste vote consolidation falls to 5.75 lakhs

The Muslim vote (3 lakhs) is bound to consolidate around the MGB

75 to 80% of the Yadav vote too will go to RJD (2 lakhs)

With Manjhi and Mukesh Sahni in the MGB , the Musahars and Mallah vote will go mostly to the MGB (75000 plus 1.5 lakhs – say 2.25 lakhs).

So that shows a consolidation of 7.25 lakh almost certain votes behind the MGB, add half the Rajput votes (25000) and you have 7.5 lakhs for MGB.

Upendra Kushwaha does not have a complete hold over his caste votebank but still his RLSP coming with the MGB may net at least 50% of the Kushwaha vote (50,000) for the MGB, making their tally rise to 8 lakhs.

The Kurmi vote will go with Nitish ‘s JDU (1.5 lakhs) , and the Paswan vote ( 1 lakh ) with RV Paswan’s LJP, which is 2.5 lakh more votes for NDA , whose tally , with 50000 Kushwaha votes included rises from 5.75 to to 8.75 lakhs.

Of the remaining 2 lakhs, the EBC vote minus Dhanuks who prefer RJD, the rest being mainly Bania caste groups will go to NDA (say 1 lakh) while the SC group might mostly favour the MGB (also 1 lakh )

So that brings up the NDA tally to 9.75 lakhs and the MGB to 9.25 lakhs.

Broadly, the Upper caste Bhumihaar plus combination has a slight edge over the Muslim plus lower caste combination.

Now, the result would depend on whose votes get split

Had the MGB backed Kanhaiyya it would have led to total consolidation of the largest caste votebank, the Bhumihaars , with the NDA and so MGB which is at a slight disadvantage in terms of caste vote banks in Begusarai, would have lost in the final analysis

Now, they still have a fighting chance, if Giriraj and Kanhaiya split the Bhumihaar vote bank.

So What About the Left Base of Begusarai

The only other factor to be considered is: what of the loyal united Left vote? Won’t it make a difference? Would that not have helped the MGB?

Those who ask such questions are sadly unaware of the ground realities of the so called Left movement in Bihar.

If CPI or the united Left is so strong in Begusarai, and has really been fighting for the rights of the underprivileged there (or for that matter anywhere else in Bihar or Jharkhand , except in a World Bank – UN sponsored NGO CBO – Incremental – eyewash – client – group creating – coopted – appropriating – the – Opposition space kind of way) , why is it that only Bhumihaars of the worst casteist type from the aristocratic Krishna Sahi and Ex DGP Lalit Vijay Singh to the poison tongued Bhola Singh have ever won from Begusarai since God knows when, except for the weak turncoat hanger -on and puppet of Nitish Kumar, Monazir Hasan (better known as Manju ), once?

The fact is that the elite Left leadership in Bihar, and more specifically in Begusarai, has only ever created dependent client groups among the poorest of the poor, to keep them away from a genuine people’s movement against arguably the most oppressive of the feudal landowning caste group anywhere in India – the Bhumihaar landowners themselves.

With Naxalbari close at hand they needed to quickly regroup and save themselves, so they joined the enemy and appropriated the land struggle and let loose the cadres of miserable Musahars and Mallahs and Doms and Nais against Rajput and other landlords , and saved their own estates.

As Lalu would frequently narrate , their slogan used to be :

“Saari jameen bant ke rahegi / All the Land will distributed”

(adding sotto voce)

“Aapan aapan chhodd kar/ except only our own, of course”

Lalu is a real-time, flesh and blood , continuous, self renewing revolution in human form . That is why the elite in Bihar and in fact all over India is totally instinctively and rightly terrified of him. Lalu is the nearest thing to Revolution in Human Form we in India shall see in our generation.

Jai Prakash Narayan helped defeat Indira and the emergency but he was a flawed upper caste messiah with a bitter and corrosive legacy – the legitimisation of the RSS and Hindutva.

All the so called JPites and Lohiates from Sharad to Nitish to Paswan to Mulayam legitimised that communal legacy in some form of the other – only Lalu could purge the communalism out of it and see right through even a seemingly benevolent Vajpayee He never compromised on secularism or social justice. Never. Not once.

It was only he, never Mulayam or Nitish or Sharad or Paswan , or even the Communists, who could have stopped, and did stop, Advani’s bloody and ominous ‘Rath Yatra’.

And then what happened ? The elite realised – here was no house – nigger. Here was no Circus Lion . Here was no secret sell – out. Here was the Real Article, the uncompromising, irrepressible, unpurchaseable, Eternal Revolutionary.

The Oppressed and the Marginalised in Bihar had found their Messiah, but more than that a true comrade, a real brother in arms, who sent a woman stone cutter, a young mouse eater, a Muslim gardener, many a housewife, many a shepherd or cowherd or swineherd, straight into the hallowed portals of legislature, in Delhi and Patna, and amply and generously gave them a share in power and a stake in the system. He made the excluded, temple – barred Dalits , the High Priests of the very temples that they were barred from entering , at whose doors they had suffered humiliation.

Lalu in Constitutional power was an unstoppable constant revolution that Ambedkar and Kanshiram could only have dreamt of and whom even Mayawati in power could not match for she had fear bred into her, while Lalu’s   inborn streak of rebelliousness makes him innately fearless, and immeasurably generous.

So it was never Lalu who pushed away the Left: it was the Left which felt totally marginalised by Lalu . They only promised revolution : Lalu delivered it. They only preached revolution: Lalu Yadav was Revolution incarnate.

Lalu has unconsciously but completely usurped the ground of the Left in Bihar . Why would poor people go out on the streets to protest and bear the lathis and bullets of their oppressors and of the government when they could become a part of the government , the administration , the power structure , themselves ? When they could demand or even without demanding get their rights and their share in the welfare and development schemes of the government ? When their needs were felt articulated and fulfilled even before they themselves could articulate them?

This is why the Left left Lalu . Their client groups were the same – except that for Lalu the client group was not a client group but his real comrades.

No one was more pleased than the Left when Lalu was embroiled in court cases : none quicker to condemn him ; none happier to see his influence falling so that they could regain some ground

What did the Left in Bihar ever achieve for the downtrodden in Bihar and Jharkhand from 1947 to 2019?

Compared to that, what did Lalu not do or try to do for the marginalised and the minorities in his period in power , and what has he not tried to do for them from the beginning of his political career till now , in the sunset of his life ? Is he in jail for stealing fodder or for stealing the ground from beneath the feet of Bihar’s exploitative elite , and exposing the pretentious hypocrisy of India’s Liberals , Left and so called intellectuals ?

Do not forget : Lalu came into power struggling against an oppressive Congress which is now totally defanged and at his mercy in Bihar even though he is jail.

So who loves Lalu , except the poor and the oppressed ? Which political party or formation wishes him well or genuinely supports him, despite his clearly visible generosity to his coalition partners, always ? None . Certainly not the hypocritical elite – led Left. But that is what inevitably happens to those who genuinely espouse the cause of the oppressed.

You may therefore be very sure that if the MGB had decided to field Kanhaiya , the Left in the rest of Bihar would still not have joined the MGB without demanding a share for its other component parties, a pound of flesh closest to the heart.

In Begusarai, it would just have made the task of the Bhumihaars easier: they and their economic and social client groups (don’t forget that they are by far the major landowners and power centres and local dabangs in most of Begusarai and only the Muslims and to some extent now, Yadavs , dare stand up to them , physically and financially as well as politically ) would have voted en masse for the NDA, except for a few CPI leaders who would have had to save face and keep up a pretence – while their Left groups would have been forced to vote for a Bhumihaar candidate either way.

This is what Bhumihaars term as “Chitt bhi meri , Patt bhi meri / Heads I Win, Tails you lose”. That is the kind of contest they traditionally like to frame – no scope for the caste to lose , either way.

Kanhaiya was initially reluctant to stand from Begusarai precisely for this reason, he has been exposed in Bihar as a mole of upper caste elite politics for all his oratory. He has been fielded from Begusarai not only because he is a CPI Member but also because he is a Bhumihaar. People outside Bihar just don’t get it : people in Bihar can see this so clearly that there is no scope for misunderstanding.

Some Lessons for the Kanhaiya Cultists

Contrary to the impression being projected by both the pro Modi and anti Modi media, by BJP Congress Left and AAP alike, RJD Top leadership could have gained a lot of good publicity countrywide by simply letting Kanhaiya contest the Begusarai seat from the MGB and they briefly considered doing so, but being hard pressed for seats by Congress , and under pressure from their student wing, their minority wing and their voters from Begusarai , they could not afford to do so, all the more since they realised the mole’s role Kanhaiya had been groomed to play , which they have seen many other Bhumihaars and Left elite leaders playing against the subalterns, in Bihar and in the country, and specifically in Begusarai in the past

It is maddening to see the whole of this country’s surface-skimming middle class and Left liberal media falling into the trap set by the cunning Bhumihaar elite of Bihar, which never loses power, come who may, except in the rule of Lalu Yadav. Even those who would otherwise oppose Modi and Hindutva and crony capitalism and corporatism and victimisation of Dalits and minorities join hands with mainstream media to shout from the rooftops that Tejaswi or Lalu Yadav got scared of Kanhaiya Kumar , or that Tejaswi is jealous of him , or that Kanhaiya could be a future CM of Bihar as he is much more capable and charismatic, educated and eloquent than Tejaswi is . Kanhaiya is welcome to his prospects ; every citizen of Bihar can harbour ambitions of becoming CM of Bihar and work towards it ; it is their democratic right. How can Tejaswi stand in his way? However : What is the obligation that Tejaswi is under, to place his entire party Cadre, made up almost entirely of subalterns who have directly suffered and continue to suffer every day indignities , insults, injustices , oppression , repression and deprivation at the hands of the cunning feudal Bhumihaar caste, at the disposal of a young and very media savvy Bhumihaar , openly tracing his lineage to the blue- blooded feudal oppressor Sri Krishna Singh , first CM of Bihar, who gave Bhumihaars a headstart in politics and bureaucracy through blatant casteism , thus dog-whistling to the entire Bhumihaar community and making blatant use of the Bhumihaar votebank in Begusarai with his party brazenly using his caste to appeal to that votebank?

And why should a devoted worker of the RJD for the past thirty years who has been a popular MLA from Begusarai and contested the MP’s election though unsuccessfully earlier but with a very respectable tally of votes, Tanveer Hassan, who personifies and has lived through the constant struggle of the minorities and the lower castes against the suffocating Bhumihaar domination of Begusarai, be forced to give up his candidature, earned through a lifetime of devotion to a party and to a cause , for a Johnny – come – lately, who has or whose family has done damn all for the cause of the oppressed classes in Bihar just because the media chooses to make a rock star out of him , as if none else in India has spoken up consistently against Modi or other oppressors and for the have nots , for a much longer period or suffered unjust incarceration also for much more time.

In fact, the convergence of mainstream Godi/Embedded media with Left liberal progressive media in respect of lionising Kanhaiya and condemning Lalu Yadav and Tejaswi , is truly astounding and tells a tale of its own , frankly , to the subaltern media (which too exists , by the way , and influences large swathes of the subaltern population since it voices their very real concerns)as well as to the common man in Bihar. And mind you, this is the group with the largest number of votes which is going to decide electoral fortunes and create a genuine wave, if it comes , and not Lutyens media , Godi or non Godi.

And before somebody says , “Who is Tanveer Hassan? Why is he so important ?”. Let me remind my readers that NDA including JDU has fielded only one Muslim candidate from Bihar, namely Md Afroz of JDU in Muslim majority Kishanganj district , and sidelined Shahnawaz Hussain , while HAM (S) , VIP , RLSP will not be fielding a single Muslim candidate from the MGB, so that burden to a great extent, of making sure minorities do not feel excluded but equally important in this era of majoritarianism, falls largely on RJD in Bihar. And compared to a devoted party worker and respected local leader of 30 years, who is the parachuted- to – eminence Kanhaiya Kumar ?

A very relevant question being asked by the subaltern intelligentsia (yes , it exists) and in the subaltern social media here is this : if Kanhaiya is indeed the charismatic anti- Modi volcano he is being projected to be by the Left liberals , why does he not contest against Modi from Benares , where too there is no dearth of Bhumihaars? Or , if he is so squeaky clean of caste , why does he not contest from , and why does his party not field him from , the National Capital , Delhi, which is the location of his Alma Mater whence he gained so much publicity , and where the very liberal , darling of the middle class , Kejriwal’s AAP can support him, preferably even with an alliance with the Congress ? He can showcase and enhance his national appeal all the better from that central vantage point.

So dear Media of every hue, and dear Urban Middle Class / Civil Society , and dear Leftists and Liberals , please go ahead and lionise Kanhaiya all you like but do not presume to tell the people of Bihar and most specifically of Begusarai to see him through the prism of your opinion ; they can and will make their own choices according to their own felt needs and practical priorities , as well they should ; and stop making Kanhaiya’s candidature a stick to beat Tejaswi , Lalu Prasad Yadav , and the RJD with : the fact that they have different ground based priorities does not by any means give you the license to selectively vilify them , and not any other party or leader in the MGB , including INC and Rahul , RLSP and Kushwaha , HAM and Manjhi. In fact , the MGB as a whole is absolutely at liberty to decide its own priorities based on their cadre feedback from the ground . Just because your blue – eyed boy is not their top darling doesn’t of necessity make them evil or selfish or condemnable.

However, it is also certain that media and the Chatterati and Twitterati will continue to use this issue and Kanhaiya’s impending defeat to vilify their favourite whipping boy , Lalu Yadav, and by default his son and political heir , Tejaswi till kingdom come about it.

History will judge Kanhaiya and Tejasw , who are both young , but one man whom even a short sighted media and middle class should by now have conceded a major positive place in the history of the struggle to save secularism and bring social justice to the masses and thus save the soul of India at immense personal sacrifice is Lalu Prasad Yadav, a living legend due to his work and sacrifice . For the country ‘s sake, and for your own sake, do not presume to insult and hurt and harm this crusty old warrior for the people’s cause unjustly and unfairly at the fag end of his life, as he fights on , though grievously ill and imprisoned , to save this country from fascism and a dark future . Do not break that brave heart with your calumnious ingratitude at the very end of its indomitable journey , or history wil never forgive you .

You are welcome to your Kanhaiya. Leave our Lalu Yadav alone.

This is the voice you will hear from the subaltern of Bihar.

And the Man who stopped Advani’s Rath will continue to be the stuff of legends in those unknown nooks and corners of rural India where the name of a certain Kanhaiya Kumar has never been heard.

Bihar like India wishes Kanhaiya well , but he has much to do to prove himself yet . Lalu Yadav has nothing left to prove. And what Tejaswi has accomplished , suffered , endured , and contributed in real terms to Bihar and the nation should not be compared with Kanhaiya’s very different journey. RJD could still consider supporting Kanhaiya in the face of his desperate appeals but it would be at a huge huge cost to its own supporters, and in a very crucial election . If they did so it would be to honour a media created wave of national opinion and at the danger of many larger betrayals in future by a person of unproven credentials on the ground. It would be frankly be better for both the party RJD and for its supporters and the people whose cause it espouses in Bihar if the RJD leadership ignored the distracting media cacophony and went by and focused on their own grassroots priorities

Let Kanhaiya fight Modi in Benares and let RJD and the MGB in Bihar and the GB and INC in UP provide him with “ outside support “ even more strongly than bleeding hearts in the media and in civil society are doing at present in Bihar .

Why should Bihar always bear the brunt ?

Let Benares make history , for once

After all, it claims to be The City Older than Time

Onwards , Media Warriors !

Next stop, Benares .

Theek hai?


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S Saraswati Written by:

S. Saraswati is a close observer of Bihar politics

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