BJP’s Hindi heartland poll debacle: RSS cites ire of upper castes, cadre apathy

Smirti Bhawan at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) loss in the three Hindi heartland States is an unquestionable setback to the party, but reviews by the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), especially the latter, show upper caste anger, apathy of cadre, and certain government policies, as the main culprit behind the reversal of fortune.

Upper caste anger

According to senior sources in the RSS, the Bill to restore the original SC/ST Atrocities Act, passed by the BJP-led government at the Centre in order to retain some of its most stringent provisions, resulted in upper caste anger against the party and hurt its chances in Madhya Pradesh (specifically Gwalior-Chambal and Malwa regions) and in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior-Chambal region, where protests by Dalit groups led to the death of eight people this year, the party could win only seven out of the 34 seats, while in 2013 it had won 21 seats. A shift of OBC votes in Chattisgarh is also being attributed to the SC/ST Act.

“This is has been conveyed to the BJP leadership although no review of the same has been suggested as a remedy,” said a source. The BJP maintains that there can be no going back from the Act as its stands today and the Sangh Parivar should instead reach out to upper castes via leaders and cadre. “In fact, at a large meeting of BJP spokespersons from across the country, called by party president Amit Shah a few weeks before polling, this matter was flagged by the group.

Mr. Shah then asked how many knew personally of cases where false imprisonment or misuse was manifestly visible. Only one out the hundreds present at the meeting had a personal experience to recollect, and then too the case had been investigated and dismissed. At this, Mr. Shah said this [aspect] had to be conveyed to upper caste groups, that the Act offered protection to SC/STs from atrocities and the number of cases and the Act’s misuse was not a common thing. “The perception that this Act was somehow there to harass upper castes had to be demolished by data and communication,” said a senior source in the BJP.


The RSS added, in its feedback, that a worrying trend of “disenchantment” among the party’s voters was reflected in the use of None Of The Above (NOTA) option available now. “Earlier, the lack of this option meant that either the person would not vote or end up voting for the party as the alternative opposition party was even more unpalatable,” said the source. Although not all who vote NOTA can be considered disenchanted BJP voters, votes polled in earlier elections and now, along with NOTA margins in at least 11 seats in Madhya Pradesh, point in this direction, say sources.

Local Vs Central

Significantly, while several BJP leaders in Delhi maintain that it was local anti-incumbency that did the party in, with a concerted campaign push from the Centre making it a close contest in Rajasthan and in Madhya Pradesh, the RSS’ feedback has been different. The organisation’s own assessment is that all three chief ministers were strong leaders, and the lack of strident anti-incumbency, especially in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, was obvious.

“There were certain issues, rural distress, the implementation the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and, of course, the SC/ST Act, which undermined local leaders. There was, of course, local anti-incumbency, but the burden of the defeat cannot be laid entirely at the door of the local MLA,” said a source. This also means that the three former chief ministers — Raman Singh, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan — will be asked to concentrate on their States for the upcoming 2019 polls.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 2:08:00 AM |

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