One cannot ignore the importance of social engineering in the caste- driven politics of Rajasthan and CM Ashok Gehlot is trying to woo the lower castes and communities by forming separate welfare boards for them.
Gehlot has announced 10 welfare and development boards in the last few months and eight of them are caste and community-based. This initiative is a new form of social engineering as generally political parties focus on large vote banks. Gehlot has focused on the marginalised castes and communities that do specific jobs like washermen, barbers, silversmiths, gardeners or even folk artists like nats and puppeteers. Last Sunday, Gehlot announced the formation of the Sri Krishna Board when members of the Yadav community met the CM at his residence.
These castes and communities are already a part of the reserved SC-ST or OBC categories and are availing the reservation benefits. By announcing separate boards, Gehlot is promising them welfare and development schemes for their specific needs.
Delegations of the communities concerned reached out to the CM to thank him. The chairman and members of the boards would be chosen from these communities, although no appointments have been made in the boards announced so far.
Political analyst Anil Sharma observes that these moves show the political acumen of Ashok Gehlot. "This time Gehlot is working on micro-management of elections and is trying to get the votes of those marginalised communities who are usually ignored by most parties," said Sharma.
The party workers are quite happy with the announcements as new posts have come up for them.
"It is good that the CM is focusing on the welfare of smaller communities; but only 4-5 months are left for the elections. When will these boards start working?" asked a party leader on grounds of anonymity, questioning the timing of the decisions.
The opposition BJP has raised similar questions terming the announcements as an election gimmick. "No appointments have been made so far and no legal provisions and rules are being followed in forming these boards," said Ramlal Sharma, MLA and BJP spokesperson.
The boards announced are:
- Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Board – will work for Kachhi, Kushwaha, Mali, Saini communities.
- Rajasthan Leather Craft Development Board – for leather artisans and other communities associated with this work.
- Rajasthan State Rajak Welfare Board – will work for the welfare of people and castes doing the work of washermen.
- Rajasthan State Swarna Rajat Kala Vikas Board - for the development of people and castes working as silversmiths.
- Folk Art Development Board – will work for the communities performing as folk artists.
- Veer Shiromani Maharana Pratap Board - this board was formed on the demand of the Rajput community on the occasion of Maharana Pratap's birth anniversary.
- Veer Tejaji Board - the board is on the demand of the Jat community.
- Shrikrishna Board - on the demand of the Yadav community.
- Braj Kshetra Religious Development Board - to take the cultural and religious identity of Braj Kshetra i.e. Bharatpur and Karauli districts to the international level.
- Thar Area Development Board - for the recognition of Churu, Hanumangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer districts at the global level for the promotion of tourism etc.