In an attempt to widen its support base, the BJP has officially decided to back Dalit sub-quota politics to divide the Dalit vote and lay claim to the least developed sections of Dalits.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday demanding a constitutional amendment to enable the splitting of the Scheduled Caste (SC) quota so as to make it possible for the Madiga caste in Andhra to get the benefit of an SC sub-quota.
The Madigas have been agitating for an SC sub-quota — also recommended by the Usha Mehra Commission two years back — on the ground that they cannot compete with the more advanced Mala caste within a common SC quota.
The letter has another political motive too.
The Madigas are concentrated in Telangana while the Malas are mainly found in coastal Andhra, and the BJP sees a chance to further its support base in Telangana to get a foothold in a state where the Congress has been declining after the death of Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy.
The Chandrababu Naidu government had actually split the state’s SC quota, but the apex court struck this down saying that as per the constitution SCs cannot be sub-divided.
“For ages there has been a feeling among the Madigas who constitute a majority of the SCs in Andhra that they continue to be deprived of the benefits of reservations simply because they are far less empowered than other groups among the SCs,” Gadkari wrote.
The BJP’s plan to expand its support among more advanced Dalit castes is not easy, as they sometimes view it as an upper caste party.
Rajnath Singh had tried to carve out SC sub-quota as Chief Minister in UP to create a Jatav (BSP supporter)-non-Jatav divide, but this didn’t happen. The Congress, too, had introduced a sub-quota in Punjab in the 1970s to consolidate its support among Mazhabi Sikhs.