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BJP rulers' decision to cancel foreign funding to Gujarat Dalit rights NGO led to poll reverses: French India expert

Christophe Jaffrelot
Counterview Desk
Well-known French academic Christophe Jaffrelot has suggested that a major reason why the BJP suffered a setback in Gujarat during the assembly elections, especially on scheduled caste (SC) seats in December 2017, is the ruling party's decision to suspend the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) sanctions to state's biggest Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust.
Indicating that the decision made the Dalits start disliking the BJP, considering it an affront on the community, Jaffrelot, without naming the NGO, says, Dalit rights leaders like Martin Mawan, founder of Navsarjan Trust, have built their organizations "in the course of several decades", insisting on the need to understand this kind of "groundwork and ... the circumstances in which Dalit NGOs have been deprived of the FCRA in Gujarat ."
In Gujarat, out of 13 SC seats, the BJP won 11 seats in the 2012 assembly elections. This time, this strenght came down to six. The Congress' SC seats went up from two to six, and one seat went to independent candidate Jignesh Mevani, who has lately emerged as Gujarat's Dalit face, thanks to the support he received from Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi.
Pointing out that Mevani's victory should not be seen in isolation, Jaffrelot, who is with the CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS in Paris, and has been studying Dalit and Muslim communities for the last three decades, says in an interview, remarkable "young leaders" like him you "have not replaced older ones, simply because they do not have large organisations behind them."
Rahul Gandhi with Jignesh Mevani
Thus, if it is Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is more than 30 years old, and has shown "remarkable resilience, in spite of lack of funds", getting "20% of the votes in the UP elections last year", at other places, Jaffrelot says suggest, these are organizations run by activists like Macwan.
Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi, before going for campaign for Mevani in Vadgam, reached Macwan's Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK) to address Dalit activists, who had come from different parts of Gujarat. These activists, hurt by the ruling party's move against Dalit campaigned against the BJP, resulting in defeat of Ramanlal Vora and Atmaram Parmar, senior ministers in the former BJP government.
One who is PhD in RSS and Sangh Parivar, and has authored "The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s", "The Pakistan Paradox", involved in launching an anthology, "Dr Ambedkar and Democracy", and a co-edited "The Islamic Connections", Jaffrelot says, "The current resurgence of Dalit assertiveness is remarkable because it develops simultaneously in several states, not only UP and Maharashtra, but also Gujarat."
Referring to the latest Dalit upsurge in Bhim Koregaon, Pune, the academic says, "Circumstances explain their mobilisation". Thus, facing dominant castes’ "antagonistic attitude", Dalits have become "collateral victims of the rise of Hindutva forces and some of their 'programmes', including cow protection, as evident from what happened in Una in Gujarat."
Martin Macwan
Yes, notes Jaffrelot, "Some Dalits have always voted for the BJP, in UP or elsewhere for all kinds of reasons", which include "the demonstration effect (sanskritisation, to use MN Srinivas’ phrase) that harks back to the Shuddhi movement of the 19th and 20th century when Hindu Mahasabha leaders agreed to have food with Dalits."
Then, there is what he calls "clientelism, a process through which some dalits support BJP notables who help them economically or otherwise.", apart from factors attached with "a combination of inter-caste rivalries and factionalism: If one jati supports a dalit party, another one will turn to another one."
In UP, for instance, he says, "the Valmikis (rechristened in a sanskritisation process cultivated by the Vishva Hindu Parishad) have voted for the BJP in response to the association of the Jatavs with BSP. In Maharashtra, Mahars have supported the RPI and the Mangs as well the Chambhars other parties, including Shiv Sena and BJP."

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