Caste prejudice: Media claims voters’ memory of “Jungle Raj” cost RJD Bihar Polls 2020 

bihar election result

The mainstream media has again shown its upper-caste character in analyzing the result of the Bihar Assembly Elections 2020. While it has hailed “the Modi magic” for helping the NDA win the state assembly elections, it has blamed the collective memory of Jungle Raj for the defeat of RJD-led Mahagathbandhan.

The term ‘Jungle Raj’ means a collapse of law and order situation. The term has been coined by the upper castes to dismiss the fifteen-year rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi in Bihar from 1990 to 2005. The era of Lalu-Rabri saw a considerable erosion of upper-caste dominance. Peeved at the assertion of lower castes in politics, the upper caste lobbies both in politics and media launched a vicious campaign against the RJD rule. Even during the recently-concluded Bihar elections, the NDA leaders, particularly those from the BJP, raked up the threat of a possible return to the Jungle Raj if the Mahagathbandhan won the elections. The top leaders of the NDA kept targeting the RJD by invoking Jungle Raj, corruption, lack of development during the 15-year old Lalu-Rabri era.

The editorials of the many leading Hindi newspapers were not ready to see the positive aspects of the Bihar elections, particularly how Tejashwi-led Mahagathbandhan brought the issue of unemployment, education and welfare of the farmers to the centre of the electoral debate. The success of Tejashwi’s campaign can be gauged out from the fact that even the NDA had to announce later that it would give 19 lakhs jobs, 9 lakhs more than what the Mahagathbandhan had promised.

Expressing the upper caste prejudice, Dainik Jagran (Patna, November 12), in its editorial, states that “The mandate from Bihar has stated that Tejashwi Yadav could emerge as a capable (saksham) leader. At the same time, it has also underlined the fact that the people have not forgotten the days of ‘Jungle Raj’ under Lalu Prasad’s tenure”.

Not many would deny the fact that Tejashwi was one of the most popular leaders in the Bihar Assembly Elections. His election rallies drew a huge number of voters, particularly the youth. The way he brought welfare politics to the centre of electoral campaigns drew appreciation even from his detractors. But the Hindi daily is hesitant to call him a capable leader. Instead, it says he could emerge.

Next to Dainik Jagran editorial was published an opinion piece by Surendra Kishore (Viprit Halat men Behtar Jeet) However, his argument also expresses the same upper caste bias: “The election results indicate that most of the people in Bihar still remember the ‘Jungle Raj’ period from 1990-2005”.

Another leading Hindi daily Jansatta (New Delhi, November 11), in its editorial, was not different: “The Prime Minister by raising the issue of Jungle Raj under the Lalu-Rabri regimes changed the game (bazi mar li). Perhaps the memory of old days has been brought back among impartial voters (nirpeksh) when Bihar turned out to be a laggard in maintaining law and order.”

Though Amar Ujala (New Delhi, November 11) does not raise the issue of Jungle Raj in its editorial, it heaps praises on Modi: “This is also clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular leader of NDA even if the elections are fought for state assemblies”.

In its editorial, The Hindustan Times (New Delhi, November 11) hails Modi and condemns the Lalu Rabri Raj. Praising Modi, it says that “there is a fundamental trust that a large segment of citizens has in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Make no mistake — if Mr Modi had not been the face of the alliance, it would have been difficult for the NDA to retain its base and offset the resentment against Nitish Kumar”. Coming down heavily on Lalu’s rule, the editorial says, And this is where Mr [Tejashwi] Yadav failed to reassure the electorate that his tenure will be different from his father’s or provide a firm road map of how he would control the anarchy that often marked the RJD’s rule in the past”.

While the eight-column lead story of The Times of India (New Delhi, November 11) on the front page, gives the man of the match award to Modi with the following headline: “Modi hits a six for Nitish in Thriller”. In its editorial on the same day, The Times of India did not miss to attack Lalu’s regime: “The collective memory of “jungle raj” among voters continues to hobble RJD”.

Similarly, The Economic Times, in its editorial (November 11, 2020), demonizes the Lalu-Rabri rule. “The poll has also shaken off the ‘Ghost of Hamlet’s father carried by Tejashwi—Lalu and Rabri Pvt. Ltd—allowing the young leader to hone RJD into a modern electoral fighting machine.”

Unfortunately, hardly any editorial has been written about the rising concern about tampering in the electoral process, particularly how the EVM machine is being tempered. For example, RJD leader Manoj Jha expressly said that “There were over dozens of seats where tampering has been done. They (NDA) are trying to change the people’s mandate” (The Hindustan Times, November 11). Besides, hardly any editorial has been penned on how the BJP leaders failed to make development an electoral plank in the recently held Bihar Assembly Elections 2020. The Hindutva leaders, instead, invoked Muslims, terrorism, and Pakistan in their electoral speeches.

abhay kumar news gap

(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. from JNU. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. Earlier, he held a Post-Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and worked as a Delhi-based reporter with The Indian Express. You may write to him at [email protected]).



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