A major controversy has erupted in Agra over the caste of Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections SP Singh Baghel, with local Dalit outfits and lawyers accusing him of contempt of the court order in representing himself as member of the Scheduled Caste.
The Allahabad High Court had in 2017 rejected Baghel’s plea when he approached the court to get his caste included in the Scheduled Caste category. The Court had then referred the matter to the National Commission of Scheduled Castes, says Agra-based advocate Suresh Chandra Soni, also the chairman of local non-profit Support India.
“Despite the court order, Baghel fraudulently got a SC certificate made in Agra. It claims that he is from the Dhangar caste,” notes Soni.
While getting a caste certificate issued, Baghel is learnt to have cited an order (Writ number 40462/2009) in Akhil Bharatiya Dhangar Mahasangh vs Uttar Pradesh state case. However, nowhere did the order mention that Baghel be treated as an SC.
A written representation was made to the Election Commission in the last week of March asking the apex poll body to reject his nomination. However, the Election Commission is learnt to have turned a blind eye to the matter, as have the Agra district magistrate and the state election commission, complains Soni.
It has been learnt that Baghel’s election to the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2017 from the reserved assembly constituency of Tundla had also been mired in controversy, since it was based on his forged caste certificate that was in violation of the High Court order.
The dispute over Baghel’s caste has been a longstanding dispute in Uttar Pradesh’s politics. Before joining the BJP, Baghel had been a three-term Samajwadi Party MLA from the Jalesar seat.
Soni recounts that Baghel, who had moved from Madhya Pradesh where the family fell in the Thakur caste, was inducted as a sub-inspector in Uttar Pradesh Police based on a caste certificate that represented him as Other Backward Caste (OBC).
“He then joined the Samajwadi Party and the issue of his caste took a back seat while he was a three-term MLA,” says Soni.
He was originally a Thakur, before claiming to be an OBC in Uttar Pradesh. Now, he has a caste certificate that claims he is a Scheduled Caste, despite the High Court referring the matter to the SC commission, he says.
In fact, the High Court had come down on the Yogi Adityanath government after it was brought to its notice that its order was not being followed.
Not only Baghel, even his family members have been trying to move to the SC caste, it has been learnt.
His nephew Hanumant Dhangar had contested the elections for Block pramukh from a SC reserved seat in Tundla. After the discrepancy was brought to light of the district administration, the Firozabad district magistrate rejected the caste certificate and nulled his election.
Boasting of a large population of Jatavs and other scheduled castes, the Agra parliamentary seat was declared a reserved seat in 2008. Besides Baghel, in fray for the April 18 vote are Congress’ Reeta Harit and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Manoj Kumar Soni.
Baghel’s alleged forgery of his caste certificate hasn’t gone down well with the local Dalit population on the seat.
Accusing the BJP leader of “playing with Dalit sentiments,” leader of local Dalit outfit Pravendra Vyas said that the Jatav community of Agra will teach the BJP a lesson at the ballot this time around.
“The Bahujan Samaj here can see how he has been juicing the caste issue just to grab power. He is insulting the entire community. We will not forgive him for this,” said Vyas.