DEMOCRATISATION OF CASTE Why the BJP is feeling left out in UP
The Statesman (Editorial)
It depends on whether Mayawati has forgotten the manner in which goons belonging to the Samajwadi Party laid siege to her at the Secretariat in Lucknow, more than five years ago, since the indications are, even according to an assessment made by the BJP, that the next Assembly in Uttar Pradesh will be hung drastically between the three major formations.
Ideological proximity should not be played up too much either, simply because both the SP and the BSP are backward caste formations (grosso modo). As Ram Vilas Paswan pointed out recently, the Yadavs constitute a good portion of the peasantry in Uttar Pradesh and their relations with Dalit landless labourers are not exemplary, even though as much can be said about the Brahmins and the Thakurs among the landowners. The BSP really doesn't have any reason to choose between the three in terms of sympathy for its cause. Remains opportunity. The BSP is looking more and more impressive because, as one BJP MP put it, its hold on the Dalits is rock solid - just as Mulayam's is on the Yadavs - and it can provide a secure base for any Thakur or Brahmin candidate unwilling or unable to go along with any upper caste formation that might exist. There are, in fact, none actually.
The democratisation of caste is such that even the BJP, ideologically the most proximate to the upper caste, is missing Kalyan Singh and his Lodhs and Koeris and Tellis and Sonars sorely, after having seen their vote share go down five percentage points between 1996 and 1999, although the logic of a general election is not coincident with that of an assembly election.
In any case, no one is willing to show his or her cards at the moment and strenuous professions of independence are being made all around. Kalraj Mishra and Rajnath Singh say no truck with the BSP, Mayawati says no truck with the BJP which, to boot, she holds responsible for the killing of Dalits in Aligarh and Fatehpur. Only thing is that the BJP realises it has to be seen making a serious pitch for the backward and Dalit vote only because, in the absence of a pan-Hindu appeal, the upper castes tend to go with whomever they think might win and at this juncture, the BJP isn't looking like a winner. So, Rajnath Singh announces the setting up of a Committee for Social Justice to look into various aspects of the job reservation policy for the SCs, the STs and this curious category he calls "more backward castes". Mayawati had earlier made a similar demand. If one understands this subtle political terminology at all, they are probably referring to sub-groups within the broad categories of backwards and Dalits who have not benefited as much from affirmative action as other, numerically superior or more politically organised sub-groups. It is obvious that caste battles will gradually reach down and downer in order to exploit the last dregs of hostility within this rotten hierarchy. Besides which, Singh knows that if the BJP were to ultimately embrace the BSP in a post-poll alliance, he would have to give his chair to Mayawati. He is looking pretty desperate, giving sops in as many directions as possible.
What the disappearance of Hindu politics in Uttar Pradesh - a good thing otherwise - means is that caste politics, driven essentially by the backward castes and the Dalits, is home. Everyone is into it. It's more powerful than the Ram temple and, despite all the reservations one can legitimately have about it, it is a sign of democracy.