In Rajasthan, BJP faces a ‘caste’ crisis

The erosion was evident when the party lost the two Lok Sabha byelections and a Vidhan Sabha byelection earlier this year.

PTI
PTI
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Prakash Bhandari

In a curious turn of fortune, the Bharatiya Janata Party is facing a double whammy in the form of anti-incumbency and sudden loss of support among virtually all dominant castes in the state.

Initially supported by only the Brahmins and the ‘Banias’, late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, having served thrice as the Chief Minister of the state, is credited with extending BJP’s support base among Rajputs, Gujjars, Jats and even Dalits. The BJP continued to reap the harvest and when it won 160 of the 200 Assembly seats in the last election, it could boast of support from all castes.

The erosion was evident when the party lost the two Lok Sabha byelections and a Vidhan Sabha byelection earlier this year.

The business community of Banias seem to be unhappy with the adverse effects of Demonetisation and GST. The Brahmins are said to be upset with the raw deal given by the party leadership to Vasundhara Raje critic Ghanshyam Tiwari, who has quit the party and floated his own Bharat Vahini Party. While the BJP appears confident that it would not lead to a wholesale desertion by the Brahmins, the party is wary since Brahmins constitute six per cent of the electorate.

Rajputs, say pundits, are unhappy because of the killing in a police encounter of Anandpal Singh, a bad character, and the party going back on appointing Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat as the state party chief in the face of opposition by Vasundhara Raje.

Although Gujjars forced the BJP government to issue orders for ‘one per cent’ reservation, BJP is unable to take their support for granted as Sachin Pilot, the Congress chief-ministerial probable, is a Gujjar.

The Gujjars and four other castes were granted five per cent separate quota by the state government through an Act in 2015. But the Rajasthan High Court, however, struck down this Act in December 2016 as the overall reservation exceeded the 50 per cent mark.

Thus, the state government could give just one per cent quota to the Gujjars and others in 2017, but the orders were issued in July and would be effective from December 9, 2016,

Gujjars are now gunning for a Commission through an amendment in the Constitution on the lines of the Rohini Commission set up by the Centre to study the proposal of bifurcation of the OBC quota in the state.

BJP is now busy working out new strategies to woo the different castes.

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