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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Focus on Dalits, minorities, RSS tells BJP

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh identified Dalits, women and minorities as the three constituencies BJP should sharpen its focus on,

india Updated: Jul 12, 2019 23:14 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat with BJP National Chief Amit Shah in an book launch event from 2017.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat with BJP National Chief Amit Shah in an book launch event from 2017.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government settles down for its second term in office at the Centre, its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has identified Dalits, women and minorities as the three constituencies the party should sharpen its focus on, two senior RSS functionaries said on condition of anonymity.

Both RSS and BJP credit the Narendra Modi government’s “pro-people” policies — taken up between 2014 and 2019 — for disrupting the caste-based voting pattern that is seen as a major factor behind the party’s landslide victory in the general elections.

The party claimed it received support from socially disadvantaged groups such as the OBCs, SC and ST even in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan where caste calculus is central to electioneering.

“In the [2019] election, the BJP was supported even by SCs and OBCs who were generally counted as supporters of parties such as the BSP and the SP whose electoral campaigns are based on caste-based identity. This happened because the government focused on taking benefits of the policies to the doorsteps of the socially and economically backward. It is important to ensure that these groups are not influenced by the old caste-based politics,” said the first RSS functionary, who is from Maharashtra.

Agreeing with the claim that the BJP has made huge inroads into the Dalit and OBC constituencies, Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies said, “There has been a shift in the OBC and Dalit vote bank in favour of the BJP. In 2019 we saw a bigger shift; from 24% Dalit votes in 2014, the party got 33% votes nationally. Similarly, there has been an increase of 20% in the vote share from OBCs in favour of the BJP nationally between 2009 and 2019.”

To be sure, the Sangh distances itself from electoral politics, but the issues taken up through campaigns such social harmony are known to have benefitted the BJP and helped shed its image as that of a party of upper castes. “The Sangh does not work with any group for electoral purposes; it works with all sections of society. Our work for social harmony and eradication of casteism is not carried out with political intention,” said Rajiv Tuli, member of the RSS state executive committee.

While the party claims it also got support from women in this election, owing to interventions announced by the Modi government in its previous tenure such as free cooking gas, toilets and enhanced maternity leave; the Sangh wants the party to do more.

As for the minorities, the Sangh relies on the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), set up in 2002, to build bridges with the Muslims.

First Published: Jul 12, 2019 23:14 IST