We would have thought that by now, someone would have put a lid on the Gujjar agitation. Going by what’s happening at ‘Ground Zero’ in Rajasthan as well as in adjoining states, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The agitation’s self-styled leader Kirori Singh Bainsla seems to be perilously going the way other ‘radical’ leaders go in a radicalised atmosphere: to the sidelines. The Rajasthan government had sent an invitation to Mr Bainsla to hold talks regarding the latter’s demand for the Gujjars getting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Then, it was Mr Bainsla’s turn to invite the government for talks. Since then, there has been a quarrel over where the talks are to be held, although the government may finally be willing to be pragmatic on this front. Time is running out. A section of Gujjars has already broken away from the Bainsla ‘core’ group unleashing violence. Added to this is the spectre of the police firing on agitators and claiming 42 lives.
But with the ‘Gujjar’ buck being passed around between the state and the Centre, the hot potato runs the serious risk of scalding more than the two administrations supposed to get things under control. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s flip-flops — first stating that she would come down hard on any law and order disruption and then blaming the whole affair on the Centre’s unwillingness to take a call on the ‘ST status’ — haven’t helped her to win credibility. As for the Centre, we detect a certain willingness on the Congress-led UPA government’s part to see Ms Raje’s BJP government juggle with a crisis with Rajasthan polls looming.
Doing ‘nothing’ has proved to be dangerous and sets a nasty precedent. For all the votebank politics indulged in these days, the Gujjar issue has been one that has been left to fester — and we may be paying a price for the state and central government’s ostrich-like behaviour. Or as is more likely the case, it’s because of votebank politics that no one wants to bell the cat.