Opposition Plans Reservation Politics To Counter The BJP In 2024
With less than 15 months left for the general election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a historic third consecutive term at the centre, opposition parties are reinventing the strategies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to counter it in the crucial electoral battle.
Even though there is little or negligible understanding between opposition parties, at least six states have either completed or are in the process of conducting a caste-based survey to counter the BJP's social engineering tactics in the upcoming political contest.
"Bihar is conducting a caste-based survey, which should not be called a census. All state governments are within their rights to conduct such a survey. Even the Supreme Court has often said in its observations that there should be greater study by state governments before they implement any benefits for the people," said Naval Kishore, spokesperson of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which is part of the government under chief minister Nitish Kumar. "This survey will help the Bihar government carry out development work in a more targeted manner and also find out the socio-economic condition of the OBC community."
It was in 2010 when veteran BJP leader Gopinath Munde first demanded a nationwide survey to find the socioeconomic status of other backward classes in the country. Speaking at a function in Mumbai in April 2010, Munde argued that the OBC census must be included in the 2011 national census. Munde served as the BJP's deputy leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Munde further said that if the government under Congress denies the caste-based survey, another decade will pass and there will be no social justice for the OBC community. Munde said that an OBC census was needed because they make up more than half of the population, and since there is no reservation, OBCs couldn't voice their demands in a more articulate manner like scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
The ruling BJP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has specifically reached out to the OBC community for the past eight years. With the help of the OBC community and the beneficiaries of numerous government schemes, the party transformed itself into a mass organisation.
"It is obvious that such a survey will have a socio-economic impact, and there is a political side to the story. The Bihar government is conducting the survey because the union government did not pay for it. There is no data about the status of OBCs in the country. The only data available is from a survey conducted prior to independence," Kishore said. "The Bihar government is spending Rs. 500 crore on the project."
Among the states that have actively demanded a caste-based survey are Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. Opposition leaders in Uttar Pradesh have also demanded that there should be a survey of OBCs, and the Samajwadi Party is spearheading the demand. Out of these seven states, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh have already completed caste-based surveys in their states under the pretext of social justice and better distribution of government beneficiary programs.
The state government of Chhattisgarh has taken the lead and passed the Chhattisgarh Public Service (Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes Reservation) Amendment Bill, which allows STs to get 32% reservation, OBCs will get 27%, and SCs will get 13%. According to the bill passed by the Chhattisgarh government, the total reservation in the state now stands at 72%.
"The move has only one purpose, and that is to cut the voter base of the BJP. The BJP was the first to talk about OBC and give prominence to the community, and now opposition parties are trying to win over the BJP's voter base before the Lok Sabha elections," said Badri Narayan, director of the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad.
Gyan Verma was Senior Editor (Politics) at Mint. He has been a journalist for nearly two decades and writes on the politics and intersection of policy and politic
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.