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When BJP wins, it credits vikas; when it loses, it shamelessly blames caste

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Not only does the BJP play the game of caste politics, it has been playing it better than anyone else.

Responding to the BJP’s shock defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath blamed it on the “unnatural” alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).

“The bypolls were a contest between development and caste and, yet again, caste has won,” a BJP spokesperson in Uttar Pradesh said.

The BJP’s offering of vikas (development) is how the party explains its election victories. When it loses, caste gets the blame.

Over the past four years, we have been relentlessly peddled the fiction that the BJP has been winning election after election because it’s offering development.

Not only does the BJP play the game of caste politics, it has been playing it better than anyone else. Without the caste politics it practises, the Modi persona and tall promises of development wouldn’t make the BJP win — as the Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypoll results show.

The BJP caste formula

Lower OBCs, often called the most backward or extremely backward classes (MBCs, EBCs), have emerged as the new BJP core voter base since 2014. This happened not by itself, but as a conscious strategy. Poorly mobilised and politically fragmented, these communities have found a new home in the BJP in state after state.

In 2013-14, the BJP often pointed out that Narendra Modi is from the same community. Before the 2019 elections, the BJP plans to divide the central OBC quota into two, again to appease the lower OBCs as they will get more reserved seats with such a division.

Bihar BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy had said , “The EBC card will help the party garner support for Modi among EBCs, who are considered the winning factor in Bihar.”

In Bihar, Paswan and Kushwaha

As Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) ditched the BJP, the party allied with two caste parties for 2014: Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, which capitalises upon the Paswan Dalit caste, and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, which targets the Koeri vote. Both Paswan and Kushwaha are ministers in the Modi government.

Then, as Lalu Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nitish Kumar were coming together for the Bihar assembly elections, Prime Minister Modi warned Bihar’s voters of the perils of caste politics.

In the 2015 Bihar assembly election campaign, the BJP put together a caste coalition again, even seeking to win OBC and Dalit voters with a conspiracy theory. Prime Minister Modi himself targeted specific castes in his speeches.

When the BJP lost that election, it blamed caste politics, because Nitish and Lalu had come together.

In UP, Kurmis, Lodhs, Rajbhars, Nishads

The BJP won 71 of 80 seats from Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and its ally Apna Dal won another two. One of those MPs, Anupriya Patel, is also a minister in the Modi government. Apna Dal is a Kurmi caste party popular with Kurmis in eastern UP. In fact, it was thanks to the support of the Apna Dal that the BJP’s Keshav Prasad Maurya won the Phulpur seat for the first time ever in 2014, that too with a large margin of over 3 lakh votes.

Similarly, keeping the crucial Lodh vote in western UP in mind, the BJP brought back Kalyan Singh into its fold. Kalyan Singh’s son became Etah Lok Sabha member, and the elder Singh himself was rewarded with the governorship of Rajasthan. In the years that Singh was outside the BJP, his own Lodh caste party would take away enough votes to make sure the BJP didn’t win by itself in Lodh-dominated seats.

The BJP added two more caste-based parties to the National Democratic Alliance before the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections. One of them, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, is a party of the Rajbhar caste. The other, the Rashtriya Mahan Gantantra Party, is of the Nishad caste.

Additionally, it poached almost every OBC leader of any significance from the BSP and the SP. Its campaign in UP was to polarise against not just Muslims but also Yadavs. The party constantly accused Akhilesh Yadav’s government of working for only one caste and one community.

Election won, the BJP said it was a victory of development. In Delhi, it gave the spin that all castes and communities had voted for the BJP, even Muslims!

When the BJP establishes alliances with caste parties, it speaks of social justice. But when the Dalit-led BSP and the Yadav-led SP form an alliance, the BJP rues caste politics.

In Gujarat, Patels and lower OBCs

In the Gujarat elections in December 2017, three caste-based social movements, those of Patels, Dalits and OBCs, were arrayed against the BJP. This contributed to the BJP’s rout in rural Gujarat. Its seats and voteshare came down to a historic low, although urban Gujarat saved the day for the party.

After the results, PM Modi said in his speech, “Thirty years ago in Gujarat, the poison of casteism had been injected in people’s psyche so deep that it took workers like me 30 long years to remove it. That’s how Gujarat was freed of the poison of casteism. I want to say to the people of Gujarat that in the last few months there have been renewed efforts to sow the seeds of casteism in the state. The people have rejected these efforts but the people will now have to be alert against casteism.”

The truth is that the Congress had peaked in Gujarat in the late ’80s with a caste formula that excluded Patels. The BJP was able to exploit Patel disenchantment and add Hindutva polarisation to it, adding other excluded castes. This caste coalition has been central to the BJP’s election victories in Gujarat. Dalits in Gujarat, for instance, have never voted for the BJP in large numbers. In 2017, the BJP was hoping to consolidate OBCs against Patels but it didn’t work.

The backlash

If Modi and vikas are a winning formula, why does the BJP need to ally with caste parties? Far from shunning caste politics, the BJP has mastered it. Adding lower OBCs to its traditional upper-caste voter base, the BJP has strengthened itself to win around 40 per cent of the votes in many places

The BSP-SP alliance in UP, like the erstwhile JD(U)-RJD alliance in Bihar in 2015, should be read as the coming together of those caste communities who feel left out from the BJP’s caste matrix.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. With rising popularity shameless journalists are creating false narratives in favour of minoritarinism.
    Give modigovt five more years and you will find India better off, cleaner, advanced, secular, equalitarian. The politics you support is of divide & rule which has been kept in place for votebanks, not Indians.
    Get your hate for Hindus right, left-wing continue to lose their importance on a daily basis due to such fake motivated articles.

  2. What sort of biased and hate filled journalism does Print carry on? ‘Shameless’? Such language does not suit journalism. And your print has SHAMELESSLY forgotten BSP and SP who rely ONLY on caste politics.

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