Divide and rule is order of the day

  • Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 25, 2014 22:02 IST

When former Maharashtra minister Chandrakant Tripathi was planning to quit the Nationalist Congress Party and rejoin the Congress where he began his career in politics in the 1980s, immediately a war broke out among the Uttar Bharatiya community in Mumbai - the kind of war that should have been alien to the metropolis but now seems to be increasingly taking over every section of society, urban or rural.

"They (rival parties) tried to make out that this would be a fight between the Brahmins and Thakurs settled in Mumbai,'' former Mumbai Congress president Kirpashankar Singh told the Hindustan Times. Singh is a Thakur and Tripathi a Brahmin and both are part of the same space - not just from the same state - Uttar Pradesh - but also the same constituency - north west Mumbai.

But then both Singh and Tripathi made concerted efforts to quash that attempt to set Mumbai's upper caste settlers against one another and came together publicly on more than one occasion to exhibit their solidarity to whoever cared to see. Tripathi also made a conscious decision that a least at this election, his joining the Congress would not be conditional on getting a ticket or any other party post. "There was simply no space for an Uttar Bharatiya in the NCP and the party did not know how to utilise me. I have decided I will work to a Congress victory at this election and woo north Indians back to the party. Those quitting the Congress to join the BJP are doing so for a consideration. All I want is a return of the party to power.''

While that position by Tripathi has somewhat settle the attempt to divide the upper caste North Indian vote in Mumbai, this election promises to be one where political parties are making deliberate divisions between various communities, playing on nascent fears in the absence of a unifying issue as at the Lok Sabha polls. NCP president Sharad Pawar, too, has not been beyond stirring up the opposition of Marathas and Dalits against upper caste domination - that was a cold blooded move given that the BJP lacks a credible face it could project as chief minister and that most of its candidates are Brahmin. But even the Congress is not beyond that particular game and is playing it at multiple levels - their campaign manager Narayan Rane is also cutting close to the bone by pitting Gujaratis against Maharashtrians. Mumbai has a sensitive history vis-a-vis Gujarat and Narendra Modi's recent invitation to Chinese president Xi Jinping to invest in Ahmedabad has become grist to the Congress mill. Rane not only raised fears that Gujaratis will begin to dominate Mumbai and Maharashtra again but has also turned the tables on the Shiv Sena by claiming that Modi eventually intends to hive Mumbai off from Maharqshtra and turn it into an independent state - an issue that has earned the Sena many vote in the past.

Through these divisions between the majority groups, the minority community has been somewhat forgotten but, says Sarfaraz Arzoo, editor of the Urdu daily `Hindustan'.

"The Pune incident soon after the May election was a big shocker but the community feels sfer with the Congress-NCP alliance. It is comforted that the Maharshtra government took prompt action and the killers of the Muslim techie there are still behind bars."

But to make doubly sure, apart from job reservations, Pawar has promised the Muslim majority Malegaon a separate district if the party is returned to power.

Clearly, divide and rule seems to be the order of the day these elections.

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