Bid to retain Hindi heartland voters after SC/ST Act rejig.
New Delhi: After receiving a negative feedback from its core votebank — the upper castes — over its overdrive to woo the dalits and the OBCs, the BJP has sent out a message to Thakurs, Brahmins and the Vaishyas — “do not make the same mistake you did in 2004” by not backing Atal Behari Vajpayee led BJP for a second term at power.
The Narendra Modi government’s recent measure to bring in a legislation to overturn the Supreme Court’s order “diluting” the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act seems to have triggered dissent among the saffron party’s core upper caste votebank, which feels that the apex court’s order had infact made sure that the Act was not misused against them.
BJP top brass, including party chief Amit Shah, ministers Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nirmala Sitharaman and others, held a meeting on Tuesday, apparently, to discuss the issue. In an indication that the issue could create problems for the BJP, former Union minister and senior leader Kalraj Mishra has asked the government managers to reconsider its legislation against the apex court’s order. Sources disclosed that the BJP top brass has been receiving strong reaction on the issue, with party leaders complaining and urging that the BJP leadership needs to address the issue at the earliest due to the growing discontent in the Hindi heartland, including Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Mr Misra said in Lucknow that there was undoubtedly anger among the upper castes and the Central government should convene an all-party meeting to discuss how the SC/ST Act could be amended so that justice is done to SC/STs and victimisation of the upper castes is also prevented.
Sensing the gravity of the issue, the saffron party has activated its leadership and also its social media team to keep an eye on such dissent and also try to placate the upper caste votebank, which seems to be miffed over aggressive wooing of the dalits and the OBCs.
This newspaper had reported recently how the saffron party’s poll managers in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh are desperately trying to assuage Brahmin and Vaishyas, who together account for nearly 10 per cent of the total population, are miffed with the ruling BJP over the recent dalit-leaning of the party.
In an embarrassment to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajput organisation Karni Sena, which had held a protest in Gwalior against the SC/ST legislation, claimed responsibility for an incident in which shoes and stones were hurled at him at Churhat on Monday. The chief minister had earlier blamed the Opposition Congress for the incident. The BJP leadership has asked its senior leaders in all states, particularly those in the Hindi heartland to hold parleys with groups and representatives of the upper castes who are miffed and “make them understand” about the electoral compulsions to “reach out” to the OBCs and dalits. Amid reports that the upper castes could opt for NOTA and not support any party in 2019, BJP leaders have been asked to convince them that even such a move “would help the Opposition parties” which would “not be in the national interest”.
Apart from Madhya Pradesh, trouble seems to be brewing for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh as well. Voices of dissent have started emerging from among the upper caste legislators in the BJP over the amendments in the SC/ST Act. A meeting of upper caste legislators in the BJP is being planned for after Diwali in Lucknow, sources said. While most of the legislators are waiting for the “right time” to openly voice their opinions on the matter of “dalit and OBC appeasement”, BJP MLA Surendra Singh has said that he would openly ask upper caste voters to press the NOTA button in the reserved constituencies.
“I am even willing to resign if it comes to that. How can I ignore the harassment of my community by my own government? A Thakur MLA Kuldeep Sengar is also a victim of conspiracy and is in jail in the Unnao rape case charges,” he said.
Mr Surendra Singh, who belongs to Ballia, said, “Every non-dalit MLA is under pressure from his voters and we will raise our voices not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in other states.”