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Is Congress trying to be a better BJP?

Arti Ghargi

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If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far. 

Several states across India on April 2 witnessed bloodied Bharat Bandh protests. The protestors opposing the recent amendments introduced by the Supreme Court in SC/ST Act turned violent torching factories, cars and several other vehicles. The violence grew so much that a child was hit & injured by lathis by the protesters in Muzaffarpur’s Maripur area. The violence left as much as 10 people dead. While the Dalit outrage was at its peak, the government was drawing criticism from all the corners of the nation.

The SC/ST Act amendment issue has turned out to be a golden card for the opposition especially Congress who is trying every possible way to cash on it. The Dalit outrage seems to have come to the front of the country’s politics again with even BJP not failing to mention its support to the community in every major speech. A closer look at all of the recent developments raises the question, is Congress turning into another BJP?

BJP and communalism:

BJP has always been accused of using communalism as a tool to polarise the society to build its vote bank. The party leadership does not forget to assert the Hardline Hindutva ideology ahead of every election. Last year, during the UP Assembly Election, Prime Minister Modi at a rally in Fatehpur on February 19, accused the ruling Samajwadi Party of spending crores on constructing boundary walls around cemeteries while neglecting Hindu crematoriums. Recently, UP CM stoked controversy asking the Karnataka people to make a choice between those who worship Hanuman and those who worship Tipu Sultan. There are countless such examples. While appealing its Hindu majority vote bank, it portrays the opposition Congress as Anti-right, Anti-Hindu and Pro-Muslim.

 

Congress and Caste Politics:

While BJP depends on division along religious lines to build its vote bank, Congress, on the other hand, is countering it with more divisiveness- using the caste politics. During Gujarat Assembly election, the Congress weaved a caste alliance of Hardik Patel(Patidar), Alpesh Thakore(OBC) and Jignesh Mewani (Dalit) to take on the incumbent BJP which was ruling the state for 22 years. Though BJP won the elections, the Caste alliances paid off for Congress as the party improved its tally with impressive numbers.

Repeating the same strategy in Karnataka, the party supported the separate religion demand of Lingayat community-which is a powerful community in the state, both-socially and politically.

Continuing on the same line, the focus is on the Dalits where the party is invoking the legacy of Ambedkar. The party’s support for the Bharat Bandh protest and a day-long fast to protest the Dalit atrocities is a step further in the direction to consolidate the Dalit votes in favour of the party.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Bandh protest, tweeted, “To keep Dalits at the lowest notch of Indian society is in the DNA of RSS/BJP. Those who challenge this thinking are hit by violence. Thousands of Dalit brother-sister are taking it to the streets today seeking to protect their rights from the Modi government. We salute them.”

It is clear that Congress is trying to assert a picture of BJP as Anti-Dalit and Anti-Minority.

The divisive politics is not new to Indian political sphere; be it division along religious lines, caste lines or linguistic lines.

If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far

Is Congress turning into BJP?

Since the Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress went under major revamping. This revamped Congress has rigorously been trying to shed the image created by the opposition. However, in the process of doing so, the party is following the lines of BJP. The soft Hindutva approach is one of the examples.

Late last year, just ahead of Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress started its rigorous campaigning in Modi’s home state. While attacking Modi’s Gujarat model was the strategy of Congress, the core strategy also included wiping out its own party image as an Anti-Hindu party. The temple run that followed has not stopped since then. As the state of Karnataka stands on the edge of Assembly elections in the upcoming month of May, the Congress party is trying to reinforce its image as a pro-Hindu party. Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat asserted his Hindu identity as Janeu-dhari Hindu while in Karnataka Siddaramaiah started asserting his Hindu identity recalling the “Ram” in his name. All this quest is to appease the moderate Hindus while still holding onto the Dalits.

However, between the race for raising the vote bank on the religious and caste lines, the ‘Vikas’ seems to have lost the path. The Gujarat Assembly Election had shown a ray of hope bringing the development issue in the light again, but as the Karnataka Assembly elections are nearing, the election discourse is back to revolve around communal and caste politics. Meanwhile, the people are still waiting for the ‘Vikas’!

Opinion

SHHH…Nobody Cares

Sujit Nair

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“Rape is rape, it should not be politicized” says PM Narendra Modi. Our Honorable Prime Minister seems to have forgotten his statement made on December 2, 2013, when he said: “Congress has made Delhi the rape capital”. I am sure that too was an ‘Election Jumla’ and he didn’t mean what he said.

The question is does anyone in our country truly mean what he or she says when it comes to women’s right or crime against women.  Smriti Irani, Sushma Swaraj, Meenakshi Lekhi… all of them prolifically protested (and rightly so..) the Nirbhaya rape incident, but went cold when it came to Kathua and Unnao. Then perhaps it was the opportunity to oust the Congress government that motivated them more than the brutal rape of the young innocent Delhi girl.

All the glitterati protests, candle marches, how many of these are actually heartfelt and real? Not one follow up action, no PILs, no answers sought from the administration, no relief or support for the bereaved family… just an upmarket media studded ‘roadshow’. A few hashtagged handwritten posters (the current social media trend) some emotional dialogues and protests registered. Good to go for the next social engagement. Matter closed.

Lastly, what a weak and timid opposition, at least the BJP had protested with their might and force in 2013 for Nirbhaya…whatever the reason. The current opposition including the Congress put up a half-hearted, half-baked, I really don’t care.. type of a protest for Katua and Unnao victims.

It’s the common men and women of India who are silently fighting for the rights of the little girl from Kathua or against the power drowsed MLA from Unnao unnoticed by the rest of the world and celebrity struck media. God bless India…God bless our daughters.

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Opinion

Are Congress and BJP in love?

Arti Ghargi

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The two national Parties-Congress and BJP have started wiping off their differences and seemingly have adopted the policy of imitation.

 

The politics today is showing a new shift in its discourse. The politics that we knew earlier, were all about political parties striving to convey to the people how they are “different” from that of the opposition. The BJP always maintained that they are different from the “minority-appeaser” Congress. Congress always asserted that the party is “secular” as opposed to the BJP. The CPM differentiated itself on the lines of Anti-Capitalism. The differentiating lines were clearly defined.

However, today the line seems to be blurring. The two national parties have started wiping off their limitations and seemingly have adopted the policy of imitation. Now, the race is not to differentiate from each other but to prove who is better using the similar grounds. Take, for example, temple hopping during elections. The temple visits by BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi seem more about proving who is better Hindu than the other.

Similarly, there are several examples where both the parties seem to imitate each other.

  • Aggressive one-liners:

Until 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was considered the best among all politicians to come up with witty and edgy one-liners that would incite a favourable response from the audience during rally or speech. But, recent speeches of Rahul Gandhi prove that he is soon catching up with PM Modi. Though a little late, the transformed Rahul Gandhi is receiving a lot of response from the crowd. The clever take on development with “Vikas went Crazy” was an instant hit and Rahul Gandhi did not forget to repeat it at almost all the rallies that followed during the Gujarat Assembly Elections.

The Rahul Gandhi 2.0 not only surprised the people but those within the political circle as well. A number of write-ups were written on how Rahul Gandhi has found the key to take on PM Modi by following the footsteps of Modi himself.

 

  • Temple Run:

It was the constant temple run of Rahul Gandhi that almost made it certain that in a run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress will toe the line of BJP. The temple run that started since the Gujarat Assembly Elections continues even till Karnataka Assembly Elections. The agenda was to counter the BJP’s “Hindutva” pitch by creating greater acceptance for the Congress with the Soft Hindutva. From Janeu-dhari Hindu to Lingayat-sympathiser- the Congress did it all to try and keep the majority happy.

 

 

 

Congress

Rahul Gandhi visiting a top lingayat seer along with Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

 

  • SC/ST Act:

It is not a secret that BJP traditionally is a party that has Upper Caste Hindus as its voter base. This voter base is so far the most loyal to the BJP. This voter base has stayed with BJP for so long because it despises the minority appeasement and the BJP has successfully cashed in on the sentiment. However, the picture isn’t the same anymore. The religion-game has taken a backseat and the caste-game is gaining importance once more. Now the Dalit votes are more important for BJP more than ever. Thus, the party has followed the lines of Congress declaring its unanimous support to the SC/ST Act. Not only the party leaders but Prime Minister Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah and several Union Ministers have come out to assert party’s commitment to upholding the SC/ST Act.

Amit Shah

Amit Shah promised to uphold the SC/ST Act during the BJP foundation day Melava

  • Day-long fast:

Now, after following many policies of each other, the BJP is following Congress and observing a fast to protest the impasse in the parliament during the budget session. Congress on April 9 had observed a day-long hunger strike to protest the Dalit atrocities across the country. Now, the BJP has announced that Prime minister Modi and several other ministers along with the BJP members will be protesting the logjam in parliament by observing a day-long fast. BJP President Amit Shah will conduct a sit-in dharna in Karnataka’s Hubbali where he is on the campaign trail.

 

Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we will definitely get to see more such incidents. Seeing the two parties imitating each other, however, has left us confused. The day may not be far when we might confuse BJP for Congress or confuse Congress for BJP.

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Opinion

Why are Dalits turning away from BJP?

Arti Ghargi

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PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have sensed the deteriorating support from the Dalit community which had shifted to BJP after 2014 Lok Sabha Election.

When the BJP emerged as the majority party in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election last year, everyone thought that the party which strives on the upper caste Hindu voter base has finally been able to get the ‘Anti-Dalit’ tag off them. The success was hailed historic as it penetrated the deep-rooted caste-based politics in the Uttar Pradesh. However, one year later, the picture doesn’t seem much flowery for the ruling party.

The path to 2019 General Elections will not be easy for BJP as it understood that caste-politics is still very much strong in the country. The party experienced it in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-poll elections. The recent Bharat Bandh protests called by several Dalit organizations to protest the Supreme Court order in the SC/ST act was evident that anger is mounting in the Dalit community against the ruling BJP.

So much so, that PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have sensed the deteriorating support from the Dalit community which had shifted to BJP after 2014 Lok Sabha Election. We can understand it from the recent speeches of Shah and PM Modi. On the 38th Foundation day of the party, Amit Shah did not talk about the fired up Karnataka Assembly Election but talked about Reservation for the Dalit community. The party posed itself as a ‘pro-Dalit’ party after electing Ram Nath Kovind- a Dalit president for India.

Even after all these efforts, why are the Dalits still turning away from BJP?

BJP’s traditional voter base was never Dalit community:

BJP’s strong Hindutva pitch has galvanized the party a strong Hindu Voter base. However, most of these are Upper Caste Hindus. The prominent BJP leaders too were Upper Caste Hindus including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi to even Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The party always targeted the Hindu Votes especially from the upper two tiers of the Caste system i.e Brahmins and Kshatriyas. A post-poll survey conducted by CSDS throws more light on the matter.

According to the survey, BJP’s Hindu (Upper Caste) voter base increased from 35.3% in 2004 to 47.8% in 2014. While Hindu (OBC) voter base increased from 25.2% in 2004 to 33.8% in 2014. Interestingly, the BJP was able to increase its voter base in SC/ST community too. However, the percentage of increase in the Hindu Upper Caste votes is more than that of any other community.

Dalit representation in the BJP:

The representation of the Dalit community in the party too is negligible. The party leadership is heavily dominated by the Upper Caste Hindus and it is even evident in the Lok Sabha. Out of 282 Lok Sabha MPs of BJP, 122 i.e. 43.3% are Upper Caste Hindus. The Dalit MPs are 15.6% comprising 44 MPs. The picture is even worse if we look at the CMs of the states ruled by BJP. Out of total 15 CMs, except 2 ST CMs, rest all are either Upper Caste Hindus or OBCs. All is not well with the Dalit MPs and MLAs in the party. Recently, a Dalit MLA had written to PM Modi saying that He was thrown out by UP CM Yogi Adityanath for raising the issue of Dalit discrimination. On Saturday, another Dalit MP from UP wrote to PM Modi saying that the party has failed to fulfil the promises made to the community. This internal caste-issue raises a red flag for the party.

Electing Ram Nath Kovind as the President of India:

During the presidential election too, the party’s bid to woo the Dalits was visible. Against Congress’ Mira Kumar-who is also from Dalit community, the BJP fielded Ram Nath Kovind-also a Dalit BJP leader. As Kovind won comfortably to grace the position of President of India, the BJP thought it would help it to amass the Dalit support. However, the BJP was trumped by its own Dalit card. So, despite giving the country its second Dalit President after KR Narayanan, why is BJP unable to get Dalit support?

Dalit Atrocities:

The prominent reason why the Dalits who have turned to BJP in 2014 are shifting away from it is the increasing atrocities on the Dalit community. The Una incident where four Dalit youths were flogged allegedly for cow slaughter by the Cow vigilantes. Since then there have been several such cases where Dalits were attacked by the cow vigilantes. The recent incident of violence at Bhima-Koregaon, Amendment of the SC/ST act by Supreme Court and the outpouring of the Dalit community in support of the community leaders point towards a growing threat for the BJP’s prospect in 2019.

The vandalism of statues of Dr BR Ambedkar, the creator of Indian Constitution and revered leader by the Dalit community has fuelled the anger more.

With the Dalit community turning against the BJP, it sets to lose more. The Dalit community makes up for the 16.6% of the population. The Hindu consolidated votes had driven BJP to power in 2014. But if BJP loses out on the Dalit votes along with the Muslim votes, it opens itself to the bigger seat-loss threat in 2019.

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