Former BJP ministers' stress on social justice by OBC groups & stress on gender equality by Congress in UP

The social justice plank eloquently articulated by OBC leaders after leaving BJP and the Yogi Government in Uttar Pradesh threaten to unravel the Hindutva project

Former BJP ministers' stress on social justice by OBC groups & stress on gender equality by Congress in UP

SN Sahu

The mini-exodus from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, of OBC and Dalit MLAs, barely a month before the UP Assembly election, has put a question mark on the party's social engineering in the state.

BJP had successfully coalesced the Dalits and the most backward among OBCs with high castes traditionally supportive of the party to form a Government and provide an overarching Hindutva framework giving primacy to Hindu identity over caste affiliations.

This created an impression among the Dalits and the most backward among OBCs that they would get justice denied to them by Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party Governments, which allegedly championed only Yadavs and Dalits respectively. BJP's social engineering however excluded Muslims and other minorities completely and actually used the support of the Dalits and OBCs to violently target them.

Dalits and OBCs in Uttar Pradesh became pawns in the hands of the Hindutva leaders in their open and vicious campaign against the minorities in UP where Muslim population constitutes almost 20 per cent and in some of the districts more than 30 per cent. Chief Minister Adityanath was so sure of the resilience of the Hindutva architecture encompassing the Dalits and OBCs that he audaciously said that the forthcoming election was between BJP's 80 per cent of the voters and the opposition's 20 per cent. It was interpreted to mean 80 per cent Hindus and 20 per cent Muslims. All other identities were lost sight of.

The resignation of three OBC Ministers on the ground that BJP's Hindutva had negated their social justice agenda offers critical lessons on how to checkmate Hindutva by mobilising people on secular issues. The social justice plank addresses inclusive social, educational and health issues of people as opposed to social engineering of Hindutva which polarises society and excludes Muslims and other minorities because of their faith.

The revival of the social justice agenda, which is now becoming central to UP politics, is reminiscent of the Mandal era when the OBC Reservation issue put a check on Kamnadal, the Hindutva agenda for construction of Ram Temple in place of Babri Mosque. It is because of social justice agenda that for almost 15 years BJP could not secure power in UP.

The revival of Mandal, in the wake of some Hindutva leaders calling for genocide of Muslims and end reservation for Dalits and OBCs , it would seem, has effectively blunted the call for Hindus to take up arms and commit a genocide of Muslims.

Dr. B R Ambedkar had described the caste system as “an ascending order of reverence and descending order of contempt”. He had also said that Hindus could hardly be put together because of their caste identities which are mutually exclusive and define each individual and determine his or her identity and social status for the whole life. Castes are diverse and its main feature representing the “ascending order of reverence and descending order of contempt” remains intact in the larger scheme of Hindutva which ostensibly claims to obliterate hierarchies based on pollution purity syndrome or other social coordinates.

Political leaders representing the backward castes are now questioning Hindutva represented by BJP and Yogi and posing a huge challenge to their social engineering through the plank of social justice. A peep into political history of UP reveals the social justice and power sharing formulation of Samyukta Socialist Party(Samsopa) which gave the slogan “Samsopa ne Bandhi Ganth, Pichde Paye Sau me Sath”.(Samsopa has resolved that backward sections would get sixty out of 100). It is attributed to Rammanohar Lohia.

That legacy of social justice was reflected in the movement launched by Kanshi Ram and is now getting revived in the context of Hindutva which is getting super imposed over other identities without addressing the deprivation of social, political and economic justice which impair their life and dignity.

O P Rajbhar who broke his party’s (Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party ) alliance with BJP and formed a new one with the Samajwadi Party had claimed that his plea for caste census, free medical treatment for people and free education were never taken seriously by Yogi or his Government. He had alleged that even jobs meant for OBCs and Dalits were given to the general category people on the ground that eligible candidates from OBCs and Dalit community could not be found. He dismissed such claims as a lie. He charged that when he asked for his Hak (Right) he was dubbed as Hindu virodhi (against Hindus).

When he was asked why he was worried about OBCs when a Ram temple is being constructed, the magnificent Kashi corridor project has been launched and attempts are being made to take up the temple issue in Mathura, he retorted by asking, “If the temple is constructed will the poor get education? Can the children of the poor become doctors, engineers? Will they get good education and employment?”

The social justice plank so eloquently articulated by these OBC leaders flows from the objective conditions prevailing in Uttar Pradesh and their respective constituencies. Hindutva supremacist outlook and domination of Thakurs in administration have made other castes feel unwanted and neglected. Lack of employment opportunities for the youth and their deepening frustration attributed to the Government's failure to create livelihood opportunities and even fill the vacancies in different departments have made them hopeless.

The worst sufferers are Dalit and OBC students who have suffered because jobs which they were supposed to get on account of reservation is not being followed by Yogi regime. Privatisation of several sectors of the Government is seen by them as a method to put an end to reservation system.

The continuously rising prices and inflation have been unbearable and back breaking. The devastating second wave of the COVID pandemic marked by widespread death due to lack of oxygen and hospital facilities is fresh in the memory of people who are now passing through the third wave.

The stray cattle problem has arisen primarily due to policies of Yogi regime putting severe restraints on cattle trade being carried on by Muslims, OBCs and small farmers belonging to most backward of castes in the caste hierarchy. The menace of stray cattle on the farms and agricultural fields has resulted in loss of crops severely affecting agricultural income of farmers the majority of whom are from OBC category. The flattening of human security and loss of livelihood opportunities have caused existential crises for people and the worst victims are the people in lower end of the caste hierarchy. Minorities are in perpetual fear because of the policies of exclusion followed by the Yogi regime.

The introduction of quota for Economically Weaker Sections and the non-fulfilment of reservation quota for Dalits and OBCs generated an impression among backward communities that reservation system is in jeopardy and their share is denied to them. The movement of farmers against farm laws brought to limelight the plight of farmers most of whom are from backward communities and minority sections of society.

The objective material conditions made the constituents restless and so their representatives are now actively targeting BJP and Hindutva, which they think are responsible for their plight and marginalisation. Therefore, the social justice agenda they are reviving and making it their anchor marks a radical departure from the ritually loaded programme of the Prime Minister in Ayodhya and in Kashi.

The BJP's polarisation of farmers on communal lines in 2013 helped the party reap electoral dividends in general elections in 2014 and 2019 and in the UP Assembly elections in 2017.

While farmers’ movement neutralised polarisation among farmers and put them against BJP, the social justice plank combined with the gender justice dimension of Congress reflected in the fielding of women in 40 per cent of Assembly seats in the UP is investing the state's politics with new dimensions which will determine the course of politics.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had set the trend during 2019 general elections in fielding women candidates from Biju Janata Dal in 33 per cent of the 21 Lok Sabha seats of the State.

All these are strengthening the foundations of politics based on people’s issues and not solely on their faith. Akhliesh Yadav said in November that a "pincer" movement of angry farmers (upset over the now-scrapped farm laws) in the western UP and a "rainbow alliance" of regional parties in the east would wipe out BJP in the election.

(S N Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to president of India K R Narayanan)

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Published: 18 Jan 2022, 4:33 PM