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

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Protests break out as school going children 'branded Naxalites, taken prisoners'

By Sheshu Babu* Conditions in all spheres of life is going from bad to worse. On September 13, Political Prisoners' Day was observed. On that day, Jatin Das, friend of Bhagat Singh and member of the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association, passed away after 63 days of hunger strike. He demanded 'political prisoners' status to those who have been jailed by the state.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.