A day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a Sangh-may (RSS-ised) society, representatives of 32 castes were invited to a meeting and lunch in Delhi on Saturday.
The agenda was Samajik Sadbhavna (social harmony) and the host was the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This was the first-ever social engineering initiative of this scale by an RSS chief.
“There were Khatik (butcher caste), Valmiki (scavenger caste) and Jatav (leather-worker caste) leaders – all Dalits – alongside Gujjars (an agrarian caste) and other OBC communities, besides Brahmins and Vaishyas. There was sahbhoj (eating together) at the end,” said an RSS functionary, requesting anonymity.
Bhagwat called for such gatherings to be organised across India at local levels for population clusters of 10,000 each.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – political organ of the RSS, which is a socio-cultural entity – is facing erosion of its influence over Dalits and OBCs in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
While 17 per cent of Delhi’s population is from the Scheduled Castes, the figure is 19 per cent in Haryana and 21 per cent in UP.
India, as a whole, has 16 per cent Dalits. Though there has been no caste census, except for SCs since 1931, OBCs are estimated to account for about 40 per cent of India’s population.
The RSS’ decision to weld different castes together to the Hindutva ideology follows its analysis that despite its belief that it represents Hindus, Dalits and many powerful OBC castes have often spurned Hindutva politics.
While Dalits in Delhi and Haryana generally vote for the Congress, those in UP largely support Mayawati. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is trying to win back UP’s Dalits by closely interacting with them.
Dominant OBC castes like Jats and Yadavs in UP and Yadavs in Bihar have sided more with farmer-based Charan Singh’s Lok Dal and socialist politics of the Ram Manohar Lohia variety, now upheld by Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP and Lalu Prasad in Bihar.