Free Press Journal

The die is caste in state


Diverse results of pre-poll surveys have left pollsters cross-eyed in Madhya Pradesh. A significant takeaway is Congress’ return into reckoning in the battle seen as dress rehearsal for the General elections. If Congress has clawed back despite lethargy and internal bickering much of the credit must go to BJP. The ruling party must also own up all blame for its own drop in popularity. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has mostly been judged on the promises he made. The party might end up paying now after most of his claims have fallen flat.

Bipolar Madhya Pradesh has suddenly turned multi-polar with five parties staking claim on all 230 seats of the state assembly. BJP and Congress have dominated the Assembly through five out six decades since the reorganisation of the state in 1956. This electoral pitch has changed since the passage of SC/ST Act and the fresh wave of resentment against the reservations policy. The BJP has drawn flak from its own upper caste supporters who had flooded the social media with anti-reservation tirade. It wasn’t without a provocation. The cue came the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who had more than once questioned the reservation policy.

He, however, gave a diametrically opposite signal during a later speech. The party cadre is bemused over the flip-flop. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Sawarna, Pichhda, Alpasankhyak Kalyan Samaj (Sapaks) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have added new dimensions by jumping into fray for all seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP have decided to extend their alliance in MP after they failed to work out a seat sharing formula with Congress. Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP), another influential regional outfit, has also decided to go it alone after hobnobbing with the SP.

Another Scheduled Tribes youth organisation Jay Adiwasi Yuva Sangathan (JAYS) is eyeing an emphatic electoral debut by contesting 80 seats in the tribal areas in western MP. Dr Hiralal Alawa, a young Doctor from AIIMS, Delhi who has settled in Dhar district and has consolidated his base among the Tribal youth. The Congress was hoping for a tie-up with JAYS which looks unlikely now. Jays has sought to establish its brand value by inviting actor Govinda. BSP and SP’s new stand and Sapaks’ entry expectedly aroused curiosity about fresh challenges before the front-runners, Congress and BJP.

Congress could ill afford to accommodate BSP and SP by conceding seats disproportionate to their strength both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.Right-wing political observers, however, believe the fringe parties crowding the scene can’t influence more than 20 per cent votes and almost 80 per cent would still be split between the Congress and the BJP. BSP does have pockets of influence in Chambal and Vindhya regions. With a fair presence of Jatavs in Bhind and Morena regions the party secured four of 35 seats in the state with 6.29 per cent vote share in 2013.

But this was a drop from the seven seats the party won with 8.97 votes. Earlier in April this year five persons had died in riots and police firing following protests by Jatavs over the dilution of the SC/ ST Act. The ruling BJP had exploited those riots to isolate the Jatavs from the Scheduled Caste spectrum. This has weakened the BSP’s hold on the Dalit vote bank. Mayawati can’t claim to be the sole repository of Dalit votes. The PCC chief Kamalnath was reluctant to meet her demand for 50 seats that would have meant conceding most of them to the BJP. Mayawati’s party debuted in the state in 1990 and won two seats. The party’s vote-share never acceded 8.97. Out of the four seats it won in the last elections one was for scheduled castes. The rest belonged to general category.

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