Bihar: Unraveling the Caste Politics Economic Growth

Caste-based politics are firmly established in Bihar's political system. caste-driven dynamics in Bihar's political culture have frequently presented obstacles to the state's economic progress
Bihar: Unraveling the Caste Politics Economic Growth

Bihar, a state located in the eastern part of the country is renowned for its rich history, diverse culture and unique political landscape and important contributions to the development of the country. However, caste-driven dynamics in Bihar's political culture have frequently presented obstacles to the state's economic progress. Caste-based politics are firmly established in Bihar's political system. Election results, policy choices, and the state's general socio-political structure are all significantly influenced by castes majorly Yadavs, Kurmis & Rajput’s. This blog explores the complex interplay between politics and caste and how it affects the GDP and economic development of the state.

When discussing the history of 'backward' and 'lower' caste movements in Bihar, discussions frequently extend to Lalu Prasad Yadavs rise in the 1990s with a passing mention of Karpoori Thakur and the 'JP Movement' before disappearing into a glossed-over black hole.

 Elections are now fiercely competitive and polarized along caste lines as a result of the dominance of caste-driven politics and identity-based voting patterns. In Bihar, political parties frequently rely on caste-based vote banks in an effort to win over particular groups of people with promises of development, reservations, and social welfare programs. As a result, government efforts frequently center on winning over these vote banks, which occasionally compromises more overarching developmental goals. Bihar's caste-politics nexus is a complicated and varied issue. Caste-based politics gives oppressed people a voice and representation, but it also has drawbacks including polarizing politics and uneven growth.

If we see how caste politics evolve in Bihar, we have to go to the past in 1920`s Janeu Movement – “the first modern milestone on the long road to mobility” – which paved the path for Yadavs (the most numerous in Bihar, after the acquisition of wealth and land, saw sanskritization as a way to raise their position in the social order), Kurmis and Koeris, arose the Momin movement which “challenged the dominance of Syeds, Sheikhs and Pathans”.  points to the domination of “caste orientation”, rather than “class orientation” during this period that even “fed a clash between the upper elite dominated national freedom movement and the social movement of agricultural communities and backward castes” The latter movement  found expression in bodies like the Kisan Sabha, the Yadav Mahasabha, the Momin Conference and the Triveni Sangh. Triveni sangh born in 1933, “the first step to consolidate and produce a comprehensive political ideology for the ‘backwards’ out of their various caste-based legends and myths” and “the first attempt to apply independent political pressure and form an autonomous political party in opposition to the indifference of Congress to upper-caste domination” and not a single person belonging to the ‘lower’ castes was a member of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee between 1934 and 1946.

From 1952 to 1962, "Brahmans, Rajputs, Bhumihars and Kayasthas commanded over 40% of Congress legislators and controlled 'vote-banks' of the Scheduled Castes and Muslims." While the Bihar Land Reforms Act of 1950 altered the conventional social pyramid by creating a "new class of people" from among "occupancy tenants," this primarily resulted in patronage networks and caste alignments, with the power still in the hands of the "upper" castes. But After leaving the Congress in 1948, socialists made the decision to focus on "backward caste agricultural groups" in order to build their political base. Karpoori Thakur, "the emerging Socialist leader from the 'lower' Shudra nai or barber caste," popularized the slogan "pichhda pave sau mein saath [60% benefits to the backwards/downtrodden]/Socialists ne bandhi gaanth [Socialists have given their pledge]," which was given by Ram Manohar Lohia, who led this charge. And also the largest post-independence public movement in Bihar, which focused on concerns such as "fee increases in educational institutions, food crises, inflation, and the corruption of the Congress government," was spearheaded by the Socialists in 1965. The rupee's devaluation occurred in 1966. Unusually high inflation, Lawlessness and hunger in Bihar.

Numerous historical occurrences have affected and had a significant impact on Bihar's politics. As prior to 1990, Forward Castes, including Brahmin, Rajput, Bhumihar, and Kayastha, dominated politics. Only a small amount of the sizable Other Backward Class group was given representation in the government. However, Vishwanath Pratap Singh's administration implemented the Mandal Commission's recommendation in 1989–1990, allocating 27% of the available seats in government positions and educational institutions to people from the Other Backward Class. Their opposition to the Bhartiya Janata Party's "politics of religion," which were supported by the Forward Castes, was stoked by this occurrence. The leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar took lead in this mobilisation, and by 1990, the upper backwards– KoeriKurmiYadav became the new political elites of state.

On November 15, 2000, Jharkhand, India's 28th state was created following a protracted tribal agitation for statehood. Jharkhand was formerly South Bihar, a region of Bihar that was particularly mineral rich and had a sizable tribal population. Jharkhand gets a large area of land which consists of coal fields and minerals which could help Bihar economy to get boost and provides employment. By 2004, Bihar had "become a byword for the worst of India, of widespread and inescapable poverty, of corrupt politicians indistinguishable from mafia-dons they patronize, and a caste-ridden social order that has retained the worst feudal cruelties." The World Bank stated in 2005 that "persistent poverty, complex social stratification, subpar infrastructure, and weak governance" were to blame for the "enormous" problems the state was facing. As of 2023, there are two main political formations: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which comprises Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP); and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) between Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Hindustani Awam Morcha, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and Indian National Congress (INC).

Although Nitish Kumar has been the state's chief minister for the longest time, he consistently breaks his commitments.  There are still many issues in Bihar that must be tackled in order for the country to progress.  Poor Roads, Displacement and Migration, Causalities due to Weather affected infrastructure, Delay in Government Exams, Poor Education System, Lack of Health Infrastructure, and Migration. One of the most important issues that need to be addressed is migration. Young people are forced to move to big cities in search of work, just like they do now. And one of the major challenges is Flood which leads to loss of Agriculture, , Infrastructure and human & Animal Lives every year. Kosi River (Sorrow of Bihar) is one of the major rivers responsible for the flood in Bihar every year. So Ravaging floods, Law & Order, Unemployment, Poverty, & poor health infrastructure are the major issue state is facing and need to be tackle.

However, with 40 Lok Sabha seats, Bihar is crucial to the election of the Central Parliament and has a significant economic impact on India. Due to the fact that Bihar exports the most non-Basmati rice. And also offer inexpensive labor. The state of Bihar's economy is mostly agrarian, with agriculture serving as its economic foundation. Rice, wheat, maize, and other crops are grown on the rich Gangetic plains. The state has greatly increased agricultural output, which has helped to increase India's production of food grains. The industrial sector in Bihar has seen some development, particularly in the textile, leather goods, and agro-processing sectors. Government programs and policies have worked to support industrialization and encourage investment, which has helped India's manufacturing sector.&  India's workforce has benefited greatly from Bihar's demographic dividend, which includes a sizable young population. India's economic potential has been increased by the state's emphasis on education and skill development, which has increased the nation's human capital pool.A significant number of UPSC candidates pass the exam each year from Bihar alone and make contributions to our society.

Bihar must support policies and implement changes that promote inclusive growth and reduce regional inequalities. Bihar's growth in FY 2022 was 10.98%, which is a large growth. Additionally, Bihar overtakes Tamil Nadu to take the top spot among MFI markets in India.  Bihar is steadily developing, but it would be better if the government put more of an emphasis on development than caste politics. Tejashvi Yadav, the leader of the current ruling party led by Nitish Kumar (JDU) and the RJD, should concentrate on state development. However, political stability is crucial because Nitish Kumar changed his alliance abruptly in order to gain power, which will be beneficial for the state's economic development.  It is impossible to ignore Bihar's contribution to national politics or its effects on the GDP and economy of India. The state's well-known leaders have been crucial in establishing national policy, and the state's economic development has aided India's overall growth story. To overcome obstacles and make sure that Bihar remains a crucial component in India's journey towards prosperity and progress, however, there is still more work to be done. Bihar's potential as a vital contributor to India's growth and progress can be fully realized with coordinated efforts and creative leadership. The political culture of Bihar is an intriguing synthesis of social dynamics, historical legacies, and current issues. Caste-based politics can hinder overall development and economic growth while also strengthening neglected populations. The state must combine eliminating caste-based injustices with advancing inclusive policies that benefit all facets of society in order to promote sustainable development.