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Political Line | Swing voters of U.P.; apex court on reservation; IAS flashpoint

Eye on non-Jatavs and other OBCs 

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls outcome will be decided by the non-Yadav OBCs (other backward classes) and Dalits, particularly the non-Jatav among them, of the State — that is where things stand as of now, and let me explain why.

Amid preparations and campaigning for the U.P. Assembly polls, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath at the BJP office in New Delhi on January 11, 2022.

Amid preparations and campaigning for the U.P. Assembly polls, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath at the BJP office in New Delhi on January 11, 2022.

Around 20% of the population, primarily upper castes of U.P., are solidly behind the BJP. There is a fermenting and longstanding rivalry between the Thakurs and Brahmins in the State, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath faces the ire of the latter in good measure for his alleged favouritism towards fellow Thakurs. Of the 75 District Magistrates in UP, 20 are Thakurs and eight are Brahmins while 14 are from OBC communities, according to a report in the  Dainik Bhaskar . Mr. Adityanath’s challenger and predecessor, Akhilesh Yadav, has questioned the fairness of this power distribution. When Mr. Yadav was CM, there used to be a campaign on similar grounds by BJP supporters who kept a count of Yadav officers as DMs, district police chiefs and even at lower levels. By raising this question, Mr. Yadav is alerting non-Yadav communities to their own status in the Hindutva tent that the BJP has erected in the State since 2014.  He is also driving a wedge between Brahmins and Thakurs, two key poles of that tent in U.P.  But all said, the likelihood of any significant erosion of Brahmin support to the BJP is minimal. There are enough reasons for the Brahmins to be with the BJP. The Brahmin-BJP compact is mutually beneficial for both.  

Around 25% of the State’s population — Muslims and Yadavs — are solidly behind the Samajwadi Party. It is not that there are no tensions between the two communities, but their overriding concerns will keep them together in the Assembly elections. A Lok Sabha election is different — Yadavs had voted the BJP in large numbers, along with other OBCs. Even the alliance of SP, BSP and the Congress could not bring them together against the BJP.  

In 2017 (Assembly), the BJP won nearly 40% of the vote and in 2019 (parliamentary elections), it got nearly 50% of the vote share. The additional votes that the BJP and the SP will require to win will have to come from the non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits, who are approximately half of the State’s population. With 40-45% of the population already clear about their choices, the battle is for the other 50-55% votes. These voters can swing between two identity politics — religion and caste. And they will decide the outcome. Watch this space.  

OBCs and Dalits as Hindus

Dalit and backward caste leaders raise questions regarding the Hindu social order, depending on the context and time. Swami Prasad Maurya, a backward caste leader who quit the Yogi ministry and joined the SP recently, is trying to resuscitate his Ambedkarite past. A 2014 case regarding his call to Dalits and OBCs to stop worshipping some Hindu gods has also come back to life, with a Sultanpur court issuing an arrest warrant against him.

In Bihar, Dalit leader and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi faced upper caste backlash for asking Dalits to not participate in priestly rituals. A section of Brahmins have taken offence to his language, for which he has expressed regret. Mr. Manjhi is part of the ruling NDA in Bihar , along with the JDU and the BJP. Both parties have remained silent on the issue.

Food habits and the practice of untouchability were central to the outburst of Mr. Manjhi. In Telangana, Dalits and other groups are seeking an FIR against Sri Vaishnava pontiff Chinna Jeeyar Swamy for ridiculing dietary habits of certain sections. “If you eat pork, you would only think like a pig. If you eat mutton, you would only follow the herd like a goat as your own brain stops working. If you take eggs, you would only behave like a chicken – peck in the dirt, place to place, and eat from it,” the pontiff is seen and heard saying in a video clip.

Quota questions

NEW DELHI, 03/08/2019: A view of Supreme Court of India during a hearing on Ayodhya issue at Supreme Court , as the the mediation process in the Ayodhya temple-mosque case has failed to evolve any solution, the Supreme Court said today, declaring daily hearings from August 6 in the decades-old dispute,  in New Delhi on Friday .  Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu

NEW DELHI, 03/08/2019: A view of Supreme Court of India during a hearing on Ayodhya issue at Supreme Court , as the the mediation process in the Ayodhya temple-mosque case has failed to evolve any solution, the Supreme Court said today, declaring daily hearings from August 6 in the decades-old dispute, in New Delhi on Friday . Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu

The notion that reservation is against merit is deep-rooted. That is wrong and not in line with the spirit of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of India held this week while upholding the OBC quota in the Centre’s share of the medial entrance merit list. “Reservation is not at odds with merit,” the Court held. “If open examinations present equality of opportunity to candidates to compete, reservations ensure that the opportunities are distributed in such a way that backward classes are equally able to benefit from such opportunities which typically evade them because of structural barriers. This is the only manner in which merit can be a democratising force that equalises inherited disadvantages and privileges.

But reservation must be based on empirical knowledge of the backwardness of the beneficiaries, the SC reiterated in another case, related to OBC reservation in local bodies. Supreme Court lawyer Abhilash M.R. explains why the Supreme Court struck down OBC reservation in local bodies announced by Maharashtra. “Though reservation to local bodies is permissible, the top court declared that the same is subject to empirical finding of backwardness in relation to local bodies as fulfilled through the three tests…..” What are those three tests? Read here.

Manufacturing hurt 

Some members of the Arya Vysya community in Andhra Pradesh are up in arms against a play that has been around for a 100 years! ‘Chintamani Natakam’ portrays a prostitute Chintamani, who apparently seduces people with her charm. A trader character who loses his wealth to the woman is an unfair portrayal of the entire community, according to the offended people. The government has readily banned the play. If anyone has a right to feel offended, it must be the sex workers, for being portrayed as evil seductresses who entrap innocent men.

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Federalism Tract  

Bending the steel frame 

Not surprisingly, the Centre’s plans to acquire for itself overriding powers to transfer IAS and IPS officers through Central deputation, doing away with the requirement of taking the approval of the State governments, has become a new flashpoint in Centre-State relations.

IAS and IPS officers are no longer eager to come on deputation to the Centre. The main reason for this disinterest is their shrinking role in the top down governance model in vogue currently in Delhi. The Centre has its own justification in forcing them to move to the Centre but this might further add to their anxieties and aggravate the fears of States who see the planned amendments to Rule 6(1) to be an infringement of their rights.

Taming Governors 

Tamil Nadu is pushing for a constitutional mandate that Governors act within a time frame on files including legislations sent to Raj Bhavan by an elected government. An immediate question of concern is that State Governor R.N. Ravi is delaying his approval of the T.N. Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, adopted by the Assembly in September 2021 to dispense with NEET and facilitate admissions based on Class XII marks. NEET itself is widely seen as an encroachment on the powers of the State. 

In Maharashtra, meanwhile, the Governor is not letting the Assembly elect a Speaker! The State government has put off its election plans for now, but it appears to be moving towards a more ugly clash.

Taming the Press

The main gate of Kashmir Press Club on Polo View road in Srinagar remains locked on January 17, 2022.

The main gate of Kashmir Press Club on Polo View road in Srinagar remains locked on January 17, 2022.

The Kashmir Press Club has been a site of fraternity and coordination among local and visiting journalists, including foreign correspondents, through long periods of lockdowns and other restrictions in the Valley. The government has now shut it down — nobody clearly knows why. Or perhaps, everyone knows.  

The J&K Police on January 14 said they had arrested human rights activist Ahsan Untoo for “spreading disaffection, ill-will and disharmony against the Union of India.”

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 3:49:05 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/political-line-swing-voters-of-up-apex-court-on-reservation-ias-flashpoint/article38313024.ece