January 25, 2017

India: RSS and Reservations - This is no off the cuff remark (Faraz Ahmad)

via Faraz Ahmad's Blog - 23 January 2017

You can commit a mistake once. But if you repeat it a second time, it’s neither a mistake nor an oversight. It’s a willful and deliberate act.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) revered father figure M G Vaidya timed his outcry against reservation just before the Bihar assembly elections and punctured Narendra Modi’s loud claims of being a backward. Everyone noticed how the anti-BJP alliance in Bihar went to town and reaped immense electoral benefit, dealing out a humiliating defeat to the party that had swept the Lok Sabha elections just a couple of months back.
This time it is his son, Manmohan Vaidya, in charge of Media and Public Relations for the Sangh, who raised the hackles against reservations, on the eve of assembly elections to five states, particularly to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

What with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi vehemently denying any plans at doing away reservations for the SCs, STs and OBCs, it appears as if the Sangh times its statement against reservation to embarrass the BJP and damage its electoral prospects. That doesn’t make much sense though, considering that Sangh workers have spread out in all Assembly constituencies in UP and Uttarakhand and are leading the polling booth level management for the impending elections.

Then why does the Sangh send out the signal against reservations repeatedly on crucial junctures of Bihar and UP elections where caste of a candidate plays an important role in a voter’s choice.  It is common sense to imagine that such statements on the eve of elections would  alienate the ST, Dalit, and OBC beneficiaries of reservation. So why did the Sangh choose to raise the reservation issue at this crucial juncture, when it is common knowledge that winning Uttar Pradesh is crucial for the Sanghis and BJP and more so for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

So is the Sangh trying to sabotage the UP elections and Modi’s onward journey to further consolidation on the Indian polity? No, I don’t think so. For argument sake let us assume if reservation goes, who will celebrate it and who will be adversely affected? Naturally the Dalits, the OBCs and even sections of OBC Muslims, the current beneficiaries, will be losers were the caste based reservation to be scrapped. And so naturally the moment Sangh proposes the abolition of reservation, it raises hackles in the Mayawati vote base of Dalits and also to a large extent in Akhilesh Yadav’s vote base of Yadavs and other backwards.
On the other hand it would immensely please the Aryavrat Savarnas as also the middle upwardly mobile forward castes like the Jats in UP and Haryana, the Patels in Gujarat and similarly the Kammas and Reddys in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. After all the underlying demand of Hardik Patel in Gujarat and of Jats of Haryana and Western UP is to scarp reservation all together or else include them as well in the reserved category.
Now it is a fact that since Rohith Vemula episode and then the assault on the Dalits in Gujarat, the Dalits all over the country have turned against the BJP and Narendra Modi. So unlike 2014 general elections, it was pretty evident that Mayawati’s base voter was not going to be swayed by Modi this time, so why bother about him. That’s just like the BJJP does not give tickets to any Muslim candidate because it knows the Muslim community by and large will not vote the BJP. And the Sanghi voter too will be most disinclined to vote a Musalman.

Similarly with a resurgent Akhilesh, the Yadav voter too appears consolidated with the Samajwadi Party.  As for other backwards and largely the entire rural farming community, they are all up in arms against Modi post-demonetisation, with slogans on the walls “Hamari Bhool, kamal ka phool (our mistake the lotus)” implying “we committed a mistake by voting for lotus” last time and this sentiment is shared not just by the backwards or farmers, it includes the Jats, pretty annoyed with Modi and the BJP and even the Baniya trader who has been badly hit by demonetization. So contrary to earlier BJP calculations of keeping its upper caste vote intact and denting the non-Yadavs among the OBCs and non-Jatavs among Dalits, the current situation is such that it needs some significant sop to retrieve its upper caste vote base.  What better sop than to hint that were the saffronites to consolidate their hold on the power levers of the entire Indian state, they may abolish or at least significantly tone down reservation.

True the BJP being a political party, sworn to abide by the Indian Constitution, dare not utter a word to this effect. Moreover it has still to bank upon a significant section of communalized Dalit and OBC voter who actually believes Musalman to be his main enemy. But what prevents the RSS from sowing the seeds of hope among the non-reserved section of the society?

And believe you me, this is no empty promise, if they actually win this round of assembly polls, most important UP, they will easily win the Presidential elections due next year and also soon enough have their majority in the Rajya Sabha. Nothing can then stop them from tampering with the Indian Constitution. All pretenses will then be dropped. Let us therefore wait with bated breath for the UP election results.