BJP’s Calculated Move

Keeping an eye on next year’s Lok Sabha elections the BJP is giving emphasis on caste polarisation. It is trying to woo the backward castes. Leaders from the backward castes are being given important positions inside the party. Another task is to keep its alliance partners in tow. Those who are unhappy or have left the fold, wooing them back would be a tough task, writes RAJENDRA KUMAR

After failing to draw Yadavs to its fold in the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in any meaningful way, the BJP has started to woo non-Yadav Backwards and non-Jatav Dalits in a big way. Party strategists insist that this is the only way that the targets set for 2019 polls can be realised. These strategists concede that whatever the changes might be; be it social media canvassing or road show, issues of development or corruption, the role of caste arithmetic cannot be ignored. And that is why caste polarisation is going to be key in 2019 polls. BJP has put its bet on wooing the backward castes. In a calculated move leaders from the backward castes are being given important positions inside the party. This includes some young leaders from Yadav community. Many have been promoted, while a few have been inducted from outside as well.
However, in tune with the wider strategy, the BJP is focusing on non-Yadav BCs and non-Jatav Dalits in terms of both – giving them tickets and bagging their possible votes. The BJP has been trying to work on these lines in the past two polls, and has secured rich dividends. However, this strategy will be brought to its conclusion in the next poll. BJP first made the dent through the leaders who crossed over from SP and BSP. However, as far as the Yadavs are concerned, over 60-65 per cent votes went to Samajwadi Party in the last two polls. That’s a solid number irrespective of the evident erosion. This will always be a tough nut to crack for BJP’s strategists.
And this is not only limited to Uttar Pradesh. In every state political parties have been trying to woo the sizeable Yadav population with varied degrees of success and failures. It started with Karpoori Thakur dividing BC and OBCs in Bihar. However, situation is different now in many ways. And BJP can be credited with breaking the BC rainbow alliance.
In this regard, the BJP has already made a committee under ex-Justice G Rohini to look for the possibility to implement quotas for Extremely Backward Castes from within the existing OBC quota. The committee was set up on October 2 last year, and was asked to give its recommendations within 12 weeks. While that deadline has passed, it is expected that it will give its recommendations in line with the 2019 polls. This will have a widespread impact on the politics and polity of this country.
The Centre is in the mood to experiment, and then implement the decision in every province. The idea is to wean away EBCs from other OBCs like Yadavs, Kurmis etc who have benefitted disproportionately from reservation. This perception, according to the government, is supported by data. It also accuses Samajwadi Party of favouring only Yadavs and Muslims. While some aspects of this were partially true, BJP’s notorious IT cell cooked data to malign both Yadavs and Muslims in the run-up to the polls. It highlighted the fact that in many of the districts most of the SHOs were Yadavs, but conveniently forgot to say that there was just one SP and one DIG from the community. However, its efforts bore fruit and a perception against Akhilesh government was made among non-Yadav castes. It did not help either that Akhilesh government did appoint disproportionate number of Yadav constables when the vacancies were opened some years ago. However, at the upper echelon, Yadavs were never in command. As far as Dalits were concerned, there was some curtailment in the vacancies, and that left a bad taste.

Setback in the LocaL PoLLS

While BJP looks all happy with the results from local polls in Uttar Pradesh, and its leaders are indulged in braggadocio, the reality is more complex. If anything, the party has lost substantial support in the months since it stormed home with a massive majority in the assembly polls. While it has managed to hold on to its support in big cities, it has seen a bloodbath in smaller cities and rural areas. The less urbanised the seat, the poorer its performance. It won 14 out of 16 mayoral seats that were up for grabs, and won around 41 per cent of votes. This is in tune with its tally in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls where it got votes in the range of 42-44 per cent. In Nagarpalika Parishads, it has seen a massive dip in support and has bagged just 29 per cent votes. The average is somewhere near 30 per cent. That’s substantially less than the combined total of the main opposition parties that is around 50 per cent in big cities and around 43 per cent in smaller cities. If this does not ring a warning bell for the party, I don’t know what would.

AlliAnce pArtners, who hAve been offering unconditionAl support for the lAst three And A hAlf yeArs, Are in the mood of bArgAining now

BJP has been working on this for quite some time now. In as early as 2001, Rajnath Singh ordered parliamentary affairs minister Hukum Singh to constitute a Social Justice Committee to look into the matter of dominant BC castes getting lion’s share of all the benefits under reservation. Similar efforts were done under Kaka Kalelkar Committee of 1953, and subsequent committees to the effect in 1975 and 1978.
The 2001 committee had found out that Yadavs formed around 19.40 per cent of the BCs in Uttar Pradesh. While Kurmis, Lodhs, Pals, Nishads and Telis were 7.46 per cent, 4.90 per cent, 4.43 per cent, 4.33 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. It was recommended that BCs need to be classified into three categories. The first category was to be given 5 per cent reservation and included only Yadavs. The second category consisting of OBCs was to be given 9 per cent reservation while the third category with EBCs was to be given 14 per cent reservation.
Says Subhash Mishra, a journalist and keen observer of UP politics, “Rajnath Singh had accepted the recommendations and issued notifications in this regard. However, Mayawati came to power the very next year and did away with the notification. Now that the BJP is all set to destroy Samajwadi Party’s political prospect, this recommendation will go a long way. The target now is Samajwadi Party, and BSP can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being.”
BJP is also keeping an eye on its alliance partners in this regard. Alliance partners, who have been offering unconditional support for the last three and a half years, are in the mood of bargaining now. From North to South, alliance partners have opposed the draconian Triple Talaq Bill. There are other issues as well where some or other partner has opposed the government’s stand. Same goes for the parties in UP. While Apna Dal refused to contest in the local polls peeved with BJP, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) decided to part ways with NDA for the local polls. If that was not enough, SBSP went all the way to Gujarat to fight the election. All this while its leader is a minister in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet. Wooing these partners back would be a tough task. Anupriya Patel– a debutant bigot in NDA’s fold– is particularly a hard nut to crack. The BJP will likely first set its house in order before jumping in what might be a make or break battle.

bJP’S hindutva icon

Hindutva icon Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has become a star campaigner for BJP in a very short time. There is a serious talk these days if RSS is trying to present “Yogi Model” as a counterweight to the so-called “Modi Model?” Why is he, clearly a greenhorn, given preference over chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan? He was sent to campaign from Kerala to Gujarat. His bigotry is being put to ample use in Karnataka as the state moves towards polls. What has he done to deserve such a quick rise?
Seldom in the past has someone been given such significance in the national politics as he has been. Especially so in BJP that prides itself to be a cadre-based party where nothing can be achieved overnight. This has forced even the PM and party chief Amit Shah to sing praises.
But then, Yogi is not merely a Sadhu or a Mahant. He is much more than that. Since the day he was appointed chief minister, he has been on a temple visit spree. His cleverly cultivated Hindutva demagogue image finds resonance among a section of Hindu voters. TV channels and newspapers have helped him cultivate this image. He has an irongrip and none of the ministers are seen questioning his decisions, how much ever bad they are. Clearly RSS has found a new, fresh, mascot for its polarisation games. However, neither BJP nor RSS is ready to come out in the open on this. However, what is definite is his increasing role in Karnataka where elections are due shortly. Insiders say that after Modi and Shah, Yogi’s name is third in the list of leaders who are in demand for campaign. While Hindutva is on top of the agenda, it is being given a developmental spin. A mixture of facts and fictions is being used to try and project him as a Hindutva icon who delivers on the promise of progress. Yogi himself insisted that Investors’ Summit be held in Lucknow in order to build the confidence of investors willing to invest in the state. How much effective this image-building measure be outside of his home state is anyone’s guess. However, at this point, the BJP is looking towards Yogi to give it a boost in 2019 polls.