There are few things in life which one can predict with almost a 100% certitude when it comes to Indian politics.
PM Modi coming up with a clever acronym for an old UPA scheme to make it his own.
Swamy pivoting to a new political direction while his patriotic Tweeple swear he is responsible for the earth spinning on its own axis.
Mamata Banerjee voicing her concerns for rising ‘fascism’ as the state police shows the best way in dealing with dissent.
And Rahul Gandhi’s umpteenth comeback after a period of ennui which will just activate the ruling dispensation’s base thanks to a series of avoidable faux pas.
Rahul Gandhi and Congress appear to have decided to make the alleged Hathras rape-murder the edifice of his latest comeback.
Rahul Gandhi’s latest comeback – which has excited the ‘Waiting for Godot Gandhi’ fan club – has a familiar feel.
Amid an emotional appeal to explain why he missed the Winter Session of Parliament as he was taking care of his mother, Rahul Gandhi has been in the thick of the action since his return.
A trip to Hathras – while conveniently ignoring other Dalit atrocities across the country – saw Gandhi clash with the police where he was accused of impersonating Neymar Jr during a fracas.
Of course, the Uttar Pradesh police is equally at fault here and had they shown the same alacrity to solve the Hathras case as they did to burn the victim’s body or manhandle Opposition politicians, this wouldn’t be a national issue.
Then there was the sofa tractor ride in Punjab, whose criticism Gandhi countered by claiming Modi spent Rs 8400 crore on planes, as if it was PM Modi’s joyride and not the official vehicle of the President and Prime Minister of the country.
He went on to pull a garbled Yes Minister-esque math problem to wonder how many warm clothes, jackets, gloves and oxygen cylinders could be purchased with the aforementioned amount.
Then, there was an attack on PM Modi’s scientific acuity, where Gandhi mocked PM Modi for asking if a turbine could be used to produce clean drinking water and manufacture oxygen, which showed that lack of scientific knowhow either among the Congress camp or those who handle Gandhi’s account.
While PM Modi has made unscientific statements in the past, the attack made little sense since PM Modi was just asking what was feasible from a scientific context.
However, the cherry on the cake was the ‘many Indians don’t care comment’ which came today.
As we saw with Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorable’, it’s never a good idea to label potential voters. But that’s exactly what he did when he tweeted a BBC link and wrote: “The shameful truth is many Indians don’t consider Dalits, Muslims and Tribals to be human. The CM & his police say no one was raped because for them, and many other Indians, she was NO ONE.”
Since the 2014 debacle, the bleak truth is Rahul Gandhi has sounded more like an NGO activist than the PM candidate of a national party seeking the people’s mandate.
Saying many Indians don’t care for ‘Dalits, Muslims and Tribals’ is akin to mocking your neighbour’s son before proceeding to ask him for a pound of sugar.
And of course, people will point out the sheer hypocrisy of this statement given the party’s radio silence on its own Dalit MLA’s house being burned down in Bengaluru by a Muslim mob over an alleged Facebook post.
Some atrocities against Dalits, are clearly more equal than other atrocities.
Do Dalits, Tribals and Muslims support BJP?
One of the most oft-repeated phrases is that the BJP’s Hindutva is opposed by Dalits, Tribals and Muslims.
Yet, BJP does substantially well with Dalits and Tribals but not Muslims.
While some of it can be chalked down to the first-past-the-post system, as per the Lokniti-CSDS survey for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s vote-share among Dalits and Tribals went up by leaps and bounds.
Over 1/3rd of Dalit voters pressed the lotus in 2019.
This was far more than 2014 when it was 1/4th.
Support for the BJP went up among lower and upper-caste OBCs and only remained stagnant among Muslims at 8%.
BJP won 77 of 131 seats reserved seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha Election.
In fact, half its additional Lok Sabha MPs in 2019 came from said seats.
BJP won 46 of the 84 reserved SC seats while Congress managed just five.
BJP also won 31 of the 47 reserved ST seats while Congress managed 4.
Even Mayawati's BSP, ostensibly the party representing Dalits in UP, managed only 2 seats. In several states, including MP, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat, BJP won all the reserved seats.
Need for an Opposition
India is in dire need of a stable Opposition because all hegemonies are inherently problematic in a democracy which allows the ruling dispensation to run slipshod over various institutions.
A few days ago, in Patiala, Gandhi had rejected claims of a weak Opposition by stating that BJP had ‘captured the entire architecture designed to give voice to people’.
He had said: “Give me free press and free institutions and this government won't last long.”
One wonders how an ostensibly free press would help, given that Gandhi insists on pouring scorn onto people who might want to vote for him and Congress.
Nirmalya Dutta is the Web Editor of The Free Press Journal. The views expressed are personal.