BJP revives Backward card in UP politics

Tavishi Srivastava/Lucknow

Efforts are on to bring backward politics on centrestage in Uttar Pradesh. BJP's change in strategy from its upper caste character to a tilt towards backwards has surely put its opponents in a dilemma.

Logically speaking, former Prime Minister and Kisan Manch leader VP Singh's resurgence into politics and his threat to counter "Kamandal" with his "Mandal" card in the coming Vidhan Sabha elections in the State would have created ripples in the political circles. But it failed to do so. Union Telecommunication Minister and Lok Janshakti chief Ramvilas Paswan retorted, "The Mandal issue has outlived its utility. It is no longer an issue since the recommendations of the Commission are already being implemented for the OBCs".

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati accused the Raja of Manda for indulging in "Parivaar vaad" saying that it was VP Singh's drama to introduce his son in politics. Whatever maybe the truth, it is evident that State political parties are once more eyeing the backward vote bank. The tussle is now to ensure reservation benefits to Most Backward (MBC) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBC). These were earlier included in the OBCs.

Paswan's decision to take out a Rath Yatra to garner a change in the system was looked upon as nothing but BJP's move to consolidate its Backward votes. Not surprisingly, Paswan and Mayawati locked horns with each other on the issue, each claiming a better hold on the Dalit votes.

When Chief Minister Rajnath Singh embarked upon BJP's "Chalo gaon ki sune" and the "Ratri chaupal" in Dadri village in Jalaun, it was perceived as a vote catching method. Perhaps, the CM was simply carrying out the party's decision at its Saharanpur conclave to review reservation to the OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in order to provide an equitable distribution to all castes. He felt the need for a separate quota to the MBC and EBCs. A total number of 76 castes have been identified in the OBCs list.

His statement has certainly set the ball rolling. Mayawati had demanded a separate quota for the MBC and EBCs on the basis of their population. The Congress also joined the chorus and promised to launch an agitation for fulfillment of this demand. Stung by the move, the Samajwadi Party blamed the BJP and BSP for making an attempt to divide the Backward votes with an eye on the Vidhan Sabha polls. But the BJP may spill cold water on its rivals by stealing the issue of providing separate quote for the MBCs.

Understandably, the Yadavs and Kurmis form the main chunk of the OBC vote bank. While the SP claims to have a hold on a section of the Yadavs, Apna Dal is said to have a major portion of the Kurmi votes. The Lodhs and Pals who were earlier with the BJP slowly drifted away ever since the exit of former Chief Minister and Rashtriya Kranti Party chief Kalyan Singh. Unnerved by this, the Saffron party, in a major shift from its stance decided to woo the Backwards. Quite another matter that the Backwards in the party were from time to time raising their voice against their discrimination and demanding a reasonable share.

The BJP, which had in the past dropped its social engineering formula after the exit of K Govindacharya, in its effort to regain its upper caste character, once again decided to focus on the Backward vote bank, which plays a significant role in tilting fortunes in the Vidhan Sabha elections.

In fact, the PWD Minister Om Prakash Singh, his colleague Ram Prasad Kamal and senior party functionary Sangh Priya Gautam had at the Saharanpur meet emphasised the need for more participation of the Backwards and Dalits.

They even advocated that the Karpoori Thakur formula of 60:40 ratio be implemented in distribution of tickets to the Backwards.

Interestingly, PWD Minister Om Prakash Singh had during his tenure as BJP president favoured setting up of a cell for MBC and EBC in the party. But the party put the matter on the backburner ever since his exit. Om Prakash Singh was inducted in the Cabinet and given charge of three important departments and the issue of Backwards was relegated to the background. The BJPs decision to join hands with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal is probably a step forward in this direction.

The sudden battle for the Backward votes in UP has surely diverted the scene from Mandir-Masjid to the alleviation of the Most Backwards. Quite another matter that the BJP may gain little dividends. BJP to unleash Mandal genie on UP From Subodh Ghildiyal
DH News Service

Bharatiya Janata Party which was expected to play the temple card is now contemplating to unleash the Mandal genie in the run-up to assembly polls.

The state government is thinking in terms of wooing the alienated sections among Dalits, tribals and backward classes by extending reservations to weaker segments in the beneficiary groups.

Sources say the government is thinking of segregating the creamy layer among OBCs and Dalits and fixing a quota within quota for the “needy.”

The argument is that reservation facility has been hijacked by the stronger castes within these groups and has not trickled down to a large segment.

To check any reaction among upper castes, the state government is not averse to extending the facility to economically weaker sections among them. While the government has already ordered the reopening of Cheddi Lal Saathi report on reservations to most backward castes, Chief Minister Rajnath Singh has made his mind known about including Dalits in his new “caste offensive.”

Jittery over its prospects, the party had submitted a blueprint of backward mobilisation to the high command during the Saharanpur working committee meet.

Chief Minister Rajnath Singh has given an indication of forming a committee to identify “forwards among Dalits and backward castes” and guaranteeing reservation to these under-privileged groups.

The Saathi report, submitted in 1977, had voiced for division of 29.5 per cent reservation into three categories _ 10 per cent for backwards, 17 per cent for MBCs and 2.5 per cent for MBCs who had converted to Islam.

But skimming creamy layer among Dalits will necessitate a fresh exercise and a committee will look into it.

The whipping up of caste plank forms part of BJP strategy to appeal to Dalits and backwards hostile to their better-off brethern. While Kurmis, Yadavs and Lodhs don’t see eye to eye the rest of backwards, the Chamars are the only vocal segment among SC/ST. Opines a senior BJP leader:

“The powerful among Dalits have a political leadership and so is with backwards. We are appealing to the weaker castes in these groups.”

With Dalits firmly behind Bahujan Samaj Party, the BJP seems to be driving a wedge between creamy and neglected Dalits.

” But, says a BJP general secretary, “the intra-Dalit differences exist. We are only giving voice to sections like Khatiks who are not able to stand up to their entrenched caste-brethern. Reservation is the best medium of wooing them.”

The party seems to have achieved its objective by triggering sharp reaction from Samajwadi Party which commands hold on Yadav and a section of Kurmis. It has dismissed the move on MBCs as an attempt to divide the OBCs. While mum on division of Dalits, its principal vote base, the BSP has welcomed special reservation to MBCs.

The sudden arrival of former prime minister V P Singh is another reason for the changed BJP strategy. Rallying behind Samajwadi Party, V P Singh has taken all by surprise by announcing to observe August 9 as “Mandal day.”

The BJP feels its new strategy will render him ineffective. Says a senior leader:

“While he can only harp on Mandal commission, we will go a step forward by striking a chord with dissatisfied among backwards. Similarly, Mayawati can continue to speak of Dalits but we seek to find an ally in the unhappy castes among SC/ST.”

An overt caste card for a party that derives strength from Brahmins and Thakurs is a risky proposition.

But Rajnath Singh feels that reservation will also be extended to economically weaker sections among upper castes. But, observers say, it is a difficult proposition in view of ceiling on reservation quota.

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Referred by: Mukandan CM
Published on: June 28, 2001
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