Editorial: BJP Rejigs Caste Calculation In Haryana

Editorial: BJP Rejigs Caste Calculation In Haryana

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 09:31 PM IST
article-image

The secrecy surrounding the change of guard in Haryana with Nayab Singh Saini replacing Manohar Lal Khattar as chief minister speaks of the ability of the BJP leadership’s continuing ability to take friend and foe by surprise. Only a day earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken warmly of their days together as RSS pracharaks at a function to open a new expressway linking Delhi with Haryana. No one could have sensed then that Khattar’s innings as CM was about to end literally within a few hours. Clearly, unlike the somnolent high commands of the family-run parties the Modi-Shah team has constantly got its eye on the ball, refusing to take it easy even if they are several goals ahead of the rival team. In Haryana, a relatively small State which returns ten MPs to the Lok Sabha, the change at the top signified forward planning for the Assembly poll due later this year rather than the Parliamentary poll in April-May.

The caste arithmetic in the state has invariably posited a Jat versus non-Jat contest, with Jats dominating the political scene. With Khattar, a Punjabi Khatri, as chief minister for the last nine years, a certain feeling of ennui had grown even in the ruling party circles. Though an honest and well-meaning leader who initially won the coveted post only because of his long-standing friendship with Modi, Khattar failed to grow into a consummate politician deftly managing contradictions and assuaging personal grievances to acquire a charismatic aura about him. The Jats hated him while the non-Jats tolerated him for his decency and incorruptibility. He had mentored Saini while the latter was rising through the RSS-BJP ranks. Given that Saini is an OBC, it led the central BJP leadership to endorse Khattar’s choice as his successor. This in turn dashed the long-standing ambition of Anil Vij, a senior RSS-BJP leader who was Home Minister in the Khattar cabinet, to become CM. His hope was dashed when Khattar was hand-picked by Modi nine years ago for CM’s post. Now Vij felt humiliated for being bypassed by a relatively junior leader for the top job. Despite being listed for swearing-in in the new government, Vij registered his protest by staying away from the ceremony. However, it is unlikely that he would try to destabilise the Saini government. The Saini government proved its majority on Wednesday with five MLAs of former deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party going with the BJP.

The realignment of political forces in Haryana might be under way with the three main Jat-led parties — the Congress led by former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Indian National Lok Dal of Ajay Singh Chauthala, and Duyshant Chautala’s JJP — splitting the Jat vote. The BJP would hope the induction of Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal in the NDA would temper protesting farmer’s anger, especially when he has pockets of influence in parts of Haryana aside from his own turf of Jat-dominated western UP. By splitting the Jat vote three ways and consolidating the non-Jat vote behind it under an OBC chief minister, the BJP may reckon it would beat anti-incumbency against nine years of the Khattar government. Of course, Dushyant Chautala would feel betrayed, especially after lending support to the BJP when it fell short of a couple of MLAs following the last Assembly poll. But Chautala read the tea leaves wrong, staking claim to a couple of Lok Sabha seats to continue the state coalition. Alerted, the BJP called his bluff, ejecting him from power by embracing five of his MLAs.

Former Congress CM Hooda would find his caste calculations going awry overnight with BJP choosing a Saini to head the government. Notably, non-Jats outnumber the Jats in Haryana by a good percentage, while the Muslims are largely confined to the Gurgaon-Rewari belt. It is significant that the onset of Mandal Commission reservations has accelerated the castefication of the society greatly, causing further accent on atomisation of the electorate into tiny caste silos. The Constitution makers had envisaged that with the passage of time caste would cease to be a factor in the polity. Deepening of democracy sadly has paradoxically meant further fragmentation of society on caste lines. It is significant that the first couple of Lok Sabhas were dominated by the upper castes, with one-third representation of OBCs and other groups. Post-Mandal, OBCs outnumber upper castes. But even among OBCs the higher castes excluded the lower castes who are now exerting their numerical strength for an equitable share in the power-pie. The Jat versus non-Jat tension is a reflection of the social and economic churn underway in the Haryana polity and the BJP seeks to profit from it in the coming Parliamentary and Assembly polls.

RECENT STORIES

Fearless Talk: No More Gimmicks Please, Govt Must Provide Employment For Youth

Fearless Talk: No More Gimmicks Please, Govt Must Provide Employment For Youth

Editorial: India’s Train System Off Track, But Government Is On Its Own Trip

Editorial: India’s Train System Off Track, But Government Is On Its Own Trip

Getting A Grip On Inflation Dynamics

Getting A Grip On Inflation Dynamics

Editorial: A Divisive And Damaging Decision

Editorial: A Divisive And Damaging Decision

MumbaiNaama: Jobs For Locals: A Tried, Tested And Failed Approach To A Real Problem

MumbaiNaama: Jobs For Locals: A Tried, Tested And Failed Approach To A Real Problem