Skip to main content

Gujarat BJP "sure", Dalit unrest wouldn't affect party's support base; Congress thinks otherwise

Gujarat CM talking to an Una Dalit victim on July 20
By Rajiv Shah
Dalits across Gujarat, especially in Saurashtra, may have agitated against the July 11 incident, when four youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste were violently beaten up with iron rods after being tied with SUV, first in village Mota Samadhiyala and then in Una town of south Saurashtra.
But the BJP leadership in Gujarat appears to think that the incident is “not much of political consequence”, and people would forget about it “very soon”.
Senior BJP leaders this correspondent talked with said, there would be “no impact” on the overall political scenario, as the 2017 assembly elections are “far away”. The all-Gujarat bandh, called by various Dalit organizations last Wednesday, is being brushed aside as “symbolic” and “confined to isolated localities”, and “largely a non-political affair.”
BJP state president Vijay Rupani, a longtime confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told this correspondent, “A largely law and order problem, the BJP government has taken all necessary steps to address the Una victims. Compensation has been paid, and we are sure genuine problems of the Dalits will be addressed.”
He added, “Things turned bad because of the attention it received in media. We feel, efforts are now being made by some national leaders like Mayawati and Arvind Kejriwal to take advantage of all that has happened in Gujarat with an eye on Dalit votes in the wake of forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.”
Yet, the party’s Dalit leaders are feeling the pinch of the community ire. Some of them even faced gherao by Dalit community mobs. BJP’s Dalit MLA from Asarwa, Ahmedabad, RM Patel, an ex-IAS official, who resigned to join the party in 2012, told this correspondent, “The issue of Dalit oppression must be addressed, otherwise we may have pay the price…”
Dalit BJP MP in Rajya Sabha, Shambhunath Tundiya, was the first distance himself from the ruling BJP, calling the Una incident as “the last straw”. He warned, if the government “fails to address” the issue of Dalit oppression in Gujarat, “no one can stop them from agitating.”
Tundiya belongs to the Dalits’ Garoda community – loosely called “Dalit brahmins”. A “dharmaguru” for Dalits, he has a religious seat in Zanzarka in Saurashtra. A video went viral on social media where Tundiya was heard saying, “The rulers must understand: The Dalits are forced to eat beef of a dead cow because they are forced by circumstances.”
Meanwhile, keen political observers, suggesting BJP indifference, point out that Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel gave her first statement condemning incident only on July 18, a week after the incident. Finding the agitation spreading to different towns of Saurashtra, she towards the state government’s resolve to act quickly by filing charge sheet would be filed “within 60 days”.
Announcing a CID probe, she visited Una on July 20 when, say BJP sources, she was “asked to go there by Delhi” because the matter was acquiring “national dimensions”.
There is reason for the BJP leadership to feel "relaxed" despite restiveness among its Dalit leaders. Forming less than seven per cent of the population of Gujarat, Dalits, say observers, “do not count” much in state politics, unlike Uttar Pradesh and Punjab where they are 21 and 26 per cent respectively.
Vijay Parmar, a Dalit rights activist who heads Janvikas, an NGO in Ahmedabad, says, “Their votes do not matter, whether it is BJP or Congress. Both bank heavily on non-Dalit votes in scheduled caste reserved constituencies. During elections, they do not even open offices in Dalit areas.”
As for the Congress, it reacted to the Una incident only on July 19, a day after the chief minister made her first announcement. Opposition leader in the Gujarat state assembly Shankarsinh Vaghela and state BJP president Bharatsinh Solanki issued a statement condemning the incident and seeking a date to meet the governor in order to “represent” against the BJP government’s “indifference”!
However, Congress leaders appear upbeat following Dalit agitations. Senior BJP leader Arjun Modhwadia told this correspondent, “The unrest has spread beyond Dalits. A rally of about 10,000 people took place in Porbandar on January 20, which was organized by Dalits, and joined by others.”
Another Congress leader, refusing to be named, said, following the latest incident, the Hindutva inroads among the Dalits has been “reversed”. He said, “Dalits were used against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots, and had moved away from the Congress. This would halt.”

Comments

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Indians witnessing 'regression to Hindutva politics' under Modi ahead of elections

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The forthcoming general election in India, scheduled from April 19, 2024, to June 1, 2024, to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha and the new Government of India, carries immense significance for the preservation of India's identity as a liberal, secular, and constitutional democracy.

An equine landmark, Cheltenham Gold Cup centenary 'epitomized' heights unparalleled

By Harsh Thakor*  The Cheltenham Gold Cup  is the most prestigious jumping race in the British Isles Steeplechasing calendar and the Cheltenham festival, a cynosure of every English and Irish racegoer. Few sporting events match or surpass the sheer intensity, competitiveness and joy that radiates its legacy. Few moments are more pulsating than witnessing a Gold Cup or a Cheltenham festival. In addition to that the race is run amidst the background of an evergreen English countryside, encircled by hills and pastures, giving a sensation of a paradise or heavenly location.