Caste-ing a Spell

Representational image.

Politicians across parties are falling back on the voter’s “Caste” to lure them into their fold in politically charged Haryana–the Indian state that shares its borders with Delhi.

With development issues nowhere in sight, it seems parochial and divisive issues of religion and caste are going to dominate the upcoming Assembly and Parliamentary elections in Haryana. Recently, an advertisement, carrying the photo of a BJP Mayoral candidate in the Karnal Municipal Corporation elections, held on December 16, 2018, along with the photos of Prime Minister Modi and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar (A Punjabi by caste, but  always claims to be a Haryanavi) with BJP’s symbol printed therein, clearly indicated about the growing importance of caste as a political factor in the elections.

The advertisement, requesting to vote for a BJP candidate, reads – “Vote for BJP, because – Got the first Punjabi CM in Haryana in 52 years . If you make a mistake today, will not get the chance again in the next 60 years . Some persons of a particular caste want to dethrone the Punjabi Chief Minister by putting and firing the gun on someone else’s shoulder.  Appeal to the Punjabi community –Support the Punjabi Chief Minister openly.” By getting this advertisement published to garner support for the  mayoral candidate of Karnal,  just on the day of voting and  requesting the voters’ favour on caste basis, throws up several pertinent questions. Is it not a direct violation of the code of conduct? Is it not a case of inciting caste hatred in the society during elections? Who got this published? If there is no involvement of BJP and its mayoral candidate in its publication, will the party and the candidate dare to demand for a vigilance enquiry? Will the election commission take note of it and order an enquiry or just close its eyes and ignore the incident?  There are scores of questions without any clear answers.

An equally pertinent question here is to ask whether BJP is the only party trying to use caste factor for political gains. The answer definitely is No. If we look back towards 90s, Prime Minister VP Singh in 1990, under the current political circumstances and to downsize the political height of Devi Lal as well as scatter the Hindu base of BJP, he used caste division in the shape of reservations to OBC. In his Independence Day speech on 15th August 1990, Prime Minister V P Singh announced – “In the memory of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar the government has recently taken a decision to give reservation to the backward classes in jobs in government and public sector.” However, the V P Singh government had to die an unnatural death due to its reservation decision, but the stigma of class rift is still visible and will perhaps remain always alive as a weapon of politics in India .

Aam Aadami Party (AAP), claiming to be a party with difference, an outcome of Anna Hazare movement, got power reigns of Delhi in the name of providing corruption-free rule and a clean political atmosphere. However, gradually, AAP also succumbed to religious and caste based forces to strengthen their political space. Now, AAP is beating the drum of names deletion of a particular community from voters list in Delhi, allegedly by the BJP due to caste politics. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the BJP had got deleted half of the voters from the Bania ( Kejariwal’s  caste ) community in Delhi as a part of the ongoing revision of electoral rolls. The AAP chief alleged  that 4 lakh out of 8 lakh Bania voters had been struck off the rolls. BJP’s representative, who also hails from Bania community, Union Minister Vijay Goel has accused Arvind Kejriwal of playing caste politics. In a tweet Kejariwal asked Vijay Goel, “ Why the BJP got struck off 4 lakh names  out of 8 lakh Bania Voters ? The business of traders has failed due to BJP’s  wrong  policies like GST, therefore Bania community is not going to vote in favour of BJP this time. But, would you get their names struck off to win?” In response to it, BJP’s Vijay Goel wrote,“Bania’s of Delhi are annoyed that Arvind Kejariwal and his party think them fools. Will the Vaish (Bania) community believe in AAP’s allegation that BJP had got their names struck off? Reality is that two Vaish leaders are the ministers in BJP’s central government.”

AAP is also girding up its loins to fight assembly elections, 2019 in Haryana and for this AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has started sharing about the development work done by AAP in Delhi, particularly in the field of education and health. But, can development work alone ensure votes? No. If that had been the case, Bansi Lal, called Haryana Nirmata, in Bhiwani, Bhajan lal’s family in Hisar and former CM Bhupender Singh Hooda’s candidate in Rohtak assembly seat, would never had lost.

During his rallies, Kejariwal never forgets to remind the people of Haryana that every leader and political party has been fetching the votes by dividing the people into caste segments. Ironically, no matter, publically how much he shows and announces that he is totally away from caste based politics, but on the ground, he has allowed to align the caste votes through his trusted lieutenants. Dr. Sushil Gupta, an AAP  member of Rajya Sabha has been entrusted with the work of consolidating Bania voters in Haryana through Vyaparik Sammelans (Traders Conventions ). Also, party’s state president, Naveen Jaihind, a Brahmin by caste, is uniting the Brahmin caste by organizing caste based programs and getting himself honoured on these platforms to woo his own caste votes . After such program in Panipat, where Brahmins have gifted a car to Naveen Jaihind,  a latest program was organized at Bhiwani on December 23, wherein  he was honoured  with ‘Parshu Ram Farsa’  by his  caste representatives.  According to senior political analyst and a former President of Indian Medical Association, Haryana  Dr.Shyam Sakha Shyam says , “Kejariwal’s School and Hospital rally campaign will have no major impact on vote fetching in caste based voting pattern in Haryana. But, his speech, reminding people about the caste dividing scenario created by other political leaders, will surely divert the Bania Community from BJP to AAP. However it will not pave the way to the power seat. ”

BJP in the state is also working on various caste alignments. The political analysis of the Municipal Corporation elections held in December 2018 in Haryana reflects that BJP has a planned and undeclared elusion from Jats to attract the non-Jats. Out of all the Mayoral candidates fielded by BJP in the five Municipal Corporations none was Jat. And the most surprising thing was that despite of being a Jat dominated belt not even a single ward member was made its candidate on all the 22 seats by the BJP in Rohtak Municipal Corporation. However, 9 Jat ward members won by defeating BJP candidates.

The political analysts consider that the avoidance from Jats and showing affinity towards non-Jats is not a recent decision taken only for Municipal Corporation elections, rather it’s part of a well-planned policy of BJP since last four years in Haryana. On one hand, BJP’s own Member of Parliament, Raj Kumar Saini is driving a regular campaign of bifurcating Jat and non-Jat communities under his anti Jat reservation stir to oppose reservation to Jats, and the BJP high command is calmly watching its outcomes with closed eyes. On the other hand, the Jat reservation leader, Yashpal Malik, President, All India Jat Sangharsh Samiti is getting full support of BJP’s union cabinet minister, Birender Singh on all the occasions. It is the most suitable win-win situation for BJP. According to Krishan Swarup Gorakhpuria, a political thinker and social activist, “Since the beginning of Jat stir, it was the political  game of BJP leadership to divide the Jat and Non-Jat .”

Thus we see that every party is sharpening its caste weapons to fight the upcoming political battle.

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