BJP supporters a public meeting in Himatnagar in Gujarat. | ANI Photo
BJP supporters a public meeting in Himatnagar in Gujarat. | ANI
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Politics is all about managing contradictions. Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh had once said he had to pay a political price because he failed to manage contradictions.

But sometimes, politics is also about creating contradictions, playing on the fault lines of India’s caste-ridden society, and giving shape to new binaries. Scratch the surface of the politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), look beneath the lofty claims of ‘integral humanism’, and we can easily find at least three distinct binaries on which the BJP has based its current politics – and its many permutations and combination across states.

Muslims still the mainstay of BJP’s politics

There is a marked pattern in the debates on the Assam NRC, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the criminalisation of triple talaq, and the abrogation of Article 370 pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

– The National Register of Citizens, whose final list was released on 31 August to everyone’s disappointment, is all about identifying Bangladeshi Muslim refugees, who had entered Assam after 1971.

– The bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, which Home Minister Amit Shah once again vowed to reintroduce in Parliament, proposes to grant citizenship to refugees who have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, provided they are Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists or Parsis – and not Muslims. As long as the refugees aren’t Muslims, they will be given the citizenship of India.

– The law criminalising triple talaq undoubtedly pertains to Muslims, and makes it almost impossible for Muslim couples with differences to arrive at reconciliation.

– The abrogation of Article 370 may not seem like it specifically targets a particular community but the whole purpose of taking away the former state’s special status was to ‘integrate’ Kashmir Valley – the region with 97 per cent Muslim population.

– The BJP government’s amendment to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, was done to facilitate the Centre and the states to tag an individual as a terrorist if they “believe” the person to be so – without FIR, charge sheet or trial. If the issue of terrorism has been used to demonise any particular community in India, it’s Muslims.

Moving forward, the BJP will most likely rake up the issue of introducing a Uniform Civil Code even as the promise to construct a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya keeps surfacing around elections or in speeches of its second-rung leaders.

All this demonstrates how the BJP can never let go of the ‘Muslim factor’ – which has been the mainstay of the party’s politics. Whether it is in picking candidates in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, etc, in garlanding of mob lynching accused (even convicts) by senior BJP leaders and providing jobs to them – these are not unintentional acts, but a signal.


Also read: Never mind Constitution, Yogi govt issuing SC certificates to OBC groups was a win-win move


Working the caste divide

Another aspect of the BJP has been its ‘caste politics’. There is a clear pattern in how it appoints chief ministers for the states it wins. In Haryana, known as the land of Jats, the BJP-appointed chief minister is a Khatri (Manohar Lal Khattar). In Maharashtra, where nearly 30 per cent of the population is Maratha, the BJP appointed a non-Maratha Brahmin Devendra Fadnavis. In the land of Patels, Gujarat, the BJP chief minister, Vijay Rupani, is from the Jain community. In the tribal state of Jharkhand, it’s Raghubar Das, a non-tribal and an OBC, at the helm.

In these states, the BJP plays on the animosity against the dominant caste/castes, among other communities. For example, in Haryana, the BJP plays on the fear of the non-Jat communities, one that presupposes that if they do not vote for the party, a Chautala or a Hooda will rule the state and the Jats will create havoc.

Similarly, the BJP works on anti-Yadav and anti-Jatav sentiments to mobilise the lower OBCs and lower SCs in Uttar Pradesh. The party talks about bifurcating the Other Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes to harness the argument that Yadavs and Jatavs have usurped all the benefits of the quota regime. The idea that some or the other caste has taken all the benefits of quota is just a hearsay or an unsubstantiated hypothesis, and it is not backed by any data. But it serves the BJP’s politics for now.


Also read: Forget about Dalit voters. Tell us why upper caste Hindus voted for BJP like never before


Dalits as the new Muslims

Despite many cosmetic acts like Prime Minister Narendra Modi bowing in front of the statues of B.R Ambedkar, the government celebrating birthdays of Dalit icons, or making Ram Nath Kovind, a Kori leader, as the President of the Union, the BJP has not been able to make inroads into the ‘Dalit vote bank’. Although the party shows its winning of reserved seats as proof of “support” from the Dalit communities, the argument doesn’t hold because most of the voters in the reserved constituencies belong to the non-SC communities.

The popular sentiment among the Dalits for the BJP has only been one of anger. Whether it was over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, flogging of Dalits in Gujarat’s Una, denial of permission to protest in Saharanpur, the Bharat Bandh against the ‘dilution’ of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, or the more recent outrage over the demolition of Ravidas Gurughar in Delhi – the Dalit anger against the ruling dispensation has been loud and clear. So, any assertion that the BJP has been able to garner support among the Dalits is merely a claim no one bothers to challenge because of how preposterous it is.

All of BJP’s ‘masterstrokes’ and ‘brilliant strategies’ have roots in these binaries – and also in the two realities the party has come to accept and take in its stride. First, the BJP knows it’s more than difficult to mobilise a grand ‘Hindu unity’, in which the Dalits are also a part. The contradictions between the Dalits and the upper castes are non-reconcilable, at least at this point. Second, even without the support of the community that comprises 16 per cent of the country’s population, the BJP knows, and had shown, it can forge a social coalition large enough to win a majority.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

This article has been updated to reflect a correction.

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15 Comments Share Your Views

15 COMMENTS

  1. “The popular sentiment among the Dalits for the BJP has only been one of anger. Whether it was over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, flogging of Dalits in Gujarat’s Una, denial of permission to protest in Saharanpur, the Bharat Bandh against the ‘dilution’ of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, or the more recent outrage over the demolition of Ravidas Gurughar in Delhi – the Dalit anger against the ruling dispensation has been loud and clear.”

    The author does not try to give the fig leaf of an empirical defense for his claims. Also, none of the incidents mentioned above were direct executive actions. So this data only betrays the author’s blind hatred for a party.

  2. indocon1111 Yes the cong won but at that time expectations were low. Absolute reality has no effect it is always Reality- Expactations. If it is more than zero then the party is doing Ok. if it is less than zero, then things happen. The expaction from the BJP was for great economics for the middle class especially and so they were willing to put up with the inconvenience of Notebandhi and GST. But economy slowing down after this is a big blow (It is not all BJP fault BTW, just look at car sales in china https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackperkowski/2019/07/29/chinas-car-sales-slump-when-will-it-end/#521df7be627b

    However, he who lives by the word, dies by the sword. The BJB would have claimed credit if things went well, so naturally the opposition will tar them if things dont go well. Cest Lav Vie

  3. ‘Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit’ or ‘Throw plenty of dirt and some of it will be sure to stick.’ If you have decided to throw poo at your adversary, at least do it the right way!

    “BJP’s politics summed up in THREE social BINARIES”, says the Senior journalist, Dilip Mandal.

    Binary means composed of two pieces or two parts or a system that uses only two numbers, zero and one.. You cannot use the term binary, when you are listing three charges.

    Let’s make sure you really get it. Here, I have written a message in binary, go ahead use a binary to text translator:
    01110011 01101100 01100001 01101110 01100100 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110000 01100101 01100100 01100100 01101100 01100101 01110010 00001101 00001010

  4. BJP of today is Congress of old. A party of all upper castes of India who are 20% of population, who play the remaining 80% of population against each other to keep themselves in power while the country suffers.

  5. The article falls into the classic problem: instead of looking at facts and then seeing what is behind it, he just has a point of view and fits (or make up)the facts that support it (if that). There are so many flaws in the argument. where to start. Let me begin by saying that I do not support any ideaology that claims exclusivity for itself. So I am not a supporter of “hindutva” and definitely not of Amit Shahs frankly incendiary statements. But, facts are stubborn things:
    1. J&K is not just kashmir valley. How come we dont support the minorities there? ie are minorities only supportable if they are muslim or christian? (exclusivity strikes again)
    2. If the Sharia is so much better for people in genral and Muslims in particular than a uniform civil code, then why are we discriminating against the hindus, sikhs, christians etc. Let us also enjoy Sharia. On the other had, if the uniform civil code is better than sharia then let everyone have it. I could go on with logic but I suspect that logic falls of his back as water off a ducks back

  6. Let me list only a very few completely unsubstantiated assertions in this article:
    1. The law criminalising triple talaq undoubtedly pertains to Muslims, and makes it almost impossible for Muslim couples with differences to arrive at reconciliation.
    ==> Justify this: makes it almost impossible for Muslim couples with differences to arrive at reconciliation.

    2. In Maharashtra, where half of the population is Maratha
    ==> Which census or data has the author sourced here? May be he is imagining numbers. Based on my recollection (Sources:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=07qGAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA161#v=onepage&q&f=false
    https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-reading-maratha-quota-verdict-5807983/
    ), Maharashtra has appx 30% Maratha population. Is 30% = 50% Far from it, right?

    How can such a person be called a Journalist let alone Sr Journalist? 🙁

  7. >> If the columnist’s analysis is accurate ….
    This is the fatal flaw in your argument. Your assumption is wrong because the author’s analysis is far from accurate. 🙂

  8. I think the author is wrong while talking about Yadav and jatavs during the rule of SP and BSP most of the reserved jobs went to yadavs why the author was silent when only Yadav youths got jobs in police recruitment and only jatavs got jobs during BSP rule which world this author lives

  9. This writer calls himself a senior journalist, but his deep rooted banalities abt binaries betray his superficial analysis and complete lack of grasp of fundamental changes in the Indian society.
    Such journalism is doomed and such journalist should come out of their “koop-mandukah” mentality, croaking in their wells, as they are. His analysis of the Muslim binary is atrocious to say the least.
    Anyways, Print seems to be the latest refuge for the anti-bjp croaking brigade.
    I would say, it is not the BJP but such journalist who aren’t able to see beyond binaries.
    Some Binaries may be an election tactic , but not a governance viewpoint.

  10. This writer is the biggest ignorant I have ever seen. He needs to understand there is new churning going on where many are not obsessed with their community bkgd. I think he is living in shoddy politics of 90s even today. He should remember that politics is gone.

  11. Once in power, the agenda has to become constructive, creative, productive. Especially in a poor country. If the columnist’s analysis is accurate, that might explain why the party seems to be always in election mode, is doing well for itself, but why serious tasks of governance and economic development do not reflect the same vision and hunger for achievement and success. Speaking as upper caste Hindu, who might be regarded as the party’s natural supporter, I don’t think 370 / Temple / UCC will give me even a bowl of porridge in the morning.

    • >> If the columnist’s analysis is accurate ….
      This is the fatal flaw in your argument. Your assumption is wrong because the author’s analysis is far from accurate. 🙂

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