Gujarat model may dent BJP’s prospects in other poll-bound states | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Gujarat model may dent BJP’s prospects in other poll-bound states

Agitations in Gujarat over the flogging of four Dalits for skinning a cow have compounded the problems of CM Anandiben Patel who is already on a shaky ground.

analysis Updated: Jul 21, 2016 01:05 IST
DK Singh
Dalit youths hold wooden sticks and shout slogans in Ahmedabad on Wednesday to protest the violence against four men from Dalit community for trying to skin a dead cow in Una town in Gujarat last week.
Dalit youths hold wooden sticks and shout slogans in Ahmedabad on Wednesday to protest the violence against four men from Dalit community for trying to skin a dead cow in Una town in Gujarat last week. (PTI)

Gujarat model of governance was instrumental in catapulting the BJP to power at the Centre in 2014, but the same now threatens to skittle its ambitions in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

Agitations in Gujarat over the flogging of four Dalits for skinning a cow have compounded the problems of CM Anandiben Patel who is already on a shaky ground. But, polls in Gujarat are still about 15 months away and Dalits constitute only 6.7% of the state’s population. The party may still hope to salvage the situation in PM Narendra Modi’s home state.

The BJP’s immediate concern is the upcoming elections and, in the long term, the setback to its assiduous attempt for an image makeover — from a Brahmin-Bania party to an all-inclusive one.

The BJP’s wishy-washy stance on the lynching of a Muslim man in UP’s Dadri and Gen VK Singh’s alleged reference to dogs in the context of two Dalit children’s murder in Haryana had undermined the party’s Dalit outreach in the run up to Bihar polls. Suicide by Hyderabad university Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula last January, in which some Union ministers’ role came under the scanner, also dented the image of the BJP that was already struggling to fend off allegations of being “anti-reservation”.

“It (Dalit flogging) will go against the BJP in UP elections. Yeh BJP ke khilaf lahar banayegi (It will create a wave against the BJP) It has completely undermined the BJP’s efforts to reach out to Dalits,” says Professor Badri Narayan of the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion at the JNU.

Read | Oppn protests attack on Dalits, Sonia says govt ‘condones social terror’

The BJP was hoping to eat into BSP’s Dalit votebank by weaning away non-Jatavs from her. A fortnight ago, PM inducted Shahjahanpur MP Krishna Raj, who belongs to Pasi community, in his council of ministers. Another Dalit MP to be made a minister was Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand. Recently, BJP president Amit Shah had a well-publicized meal at a Dalit family’s home in Varanasi. It’s the same party, which used to ridicule Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s stay at Dalit houses.

Read | Gujarat govt acted fast in Una, Dalit atrocities under Cong rule too: Rajnath

Una incident might put paid to all these overtures by the BJP towards Dalits. BJP MP Udit Raj, the most prominent Dalit face of the party, however, believes the incident will not have any bearing on the party’s prospects in other states “as the (Gujarat) government has already taken action”. “But what happened in Una is very unfortunate... It’s not a law and order problem; it’s a social problem,” says the North-West Delhi MP.

But the way the BJP promptly reacted to the use of abusive words against by its UP unit vice-president Dayashankar Singh betrays the party’s concern about its image. The party immediately expelled Singh and no less than finance minister Arun Jaitley expressed regret for his colleague’s misconduct. The BJP still has a lot of firefighting to do.