Hathras shadow on Bihar ballot

The claims of good governance by the BJP-led government at the Centre have suffered a severe jolt with one of the key states ruled by it, Uttar Pradesh, failing to act decisively against the perpetrators of the Hathras gangrape, which resulted in the death of a young Dalit woman. The shadow of the incident threatens to affect the prospects of political parties in the Bihar Assembly elections. The case has evoked widespread condemnation, with PM Modi telling the UP government to bring the perpetrators of the crime to book.

The onslaught by a determined Opposition will put pressure on the Yogi government and any delay to act will threaten not just the prospects of the BJP, but also its alliance partners that have mostly deprived sections as their constituents. Even within the BJP, the manner in which the incident was managed has drawn criticism. The advent of Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar had marked the end of upper-caste domination in politics and successive governments saw no reversal in this trend. The present JDU-BJP alliance ensured social cohesion by welding the aspirations of the downtrodden with upper-caste apprehensions and the Hathras episode can put pressure on the JDU, for it cannot afford to cede ground to the RJD and LJP, parties that are eager to prove a point or two to three-term CM Nitish Kumar under young leaders.

What puts the BJP in an unenviable position is the fact that the prospects of its own government in MP may get affected in the bypolls. With its primarily Dalit vote bank, the LJP may find it difficult to defend its relations with the BJP, whose coalition dharma is under a cloud with the Shiromani Akali Dal having already walked out. Bihar needs a renewed thrust on development, having seen the return of migrant workers in large numbers, to prevent social tension. Creating a caste divide by pandering to insecurities is not called for at a time when collective efforts are needed to fight the pandemic.

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