Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is fond of using colourful language in his public speeches. In 2016 MP High Court quashed reservation in promotions to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe government employees.
Soon after that, addressing a meeting of government employees and officers from these communities, he assured them that the reservation in promotions will continue despite the high court order.
Chouhan threw an open challenge: “Koi mai ka lal arakshan khatm nahi kar sakta.”
This week, as large parts of MP shut down to protest amendment to SC/ST Act, agitators in Vidisha, Chouhan’s former constituency, wore T-shirts that proclaimed, “Ham Hai Mai Ke Lal.”
The black coloured T-shirts with the message, an apparent dig at the CM, have made their appearance in several part of the State as the agitation against the SC/ST Act gains momentum.
Both BJP & Congress worried
But it is not only Chouhan who has to worry. The overwhelming success of bandh against SC/ST Act in the state has caused nervousness in both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress camps. Both had supported the amendment.
The state assembly elections are due after two months. The political parties are trying to figure out how the new development, that seems to be spreading like wildfire, will affect their votes at the hustings.
The bandh was the culmination of almost a fortnight long street-level protest against the Act, directed against both the BJP and the Congress leaders.
Many villages in Ratlam, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Khargone and Gwalior are displaying placards in front of houses saying the owners belong to upper castes and hence no leader supporting the SC/ST Act should seek their votes.
Protest in streets
The agitators gheraoed BJP MP Prabhat Jha and Health Minister Rustam Singh in Morena, waiving black flags. Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh faced similar treatment in several parts of the state.
Bureaucrat-turned-MP Bhagirath Prasad faced similar protest in Bhind. They stormed the house of union minister Narendra Singh Tomar to present him with bangles.
Faced with a hostile crowd, a scheduled caste MLA from Ashok Nagar, Gopilal Jatav, had to issue a statement saying he supported the agitators’ demand!
Mandsaur MP Sudhir Gupta is facing huge opposition in his area. BJP MPs Prahlad Patel and Riti Pathak had to face black flags and hostile slogans.
The agitators are specially targeting political meetings. In Gwalior they tried to disturb a meeting attended by BJP general secretary Vinay Shahsrabuddhe. They also gheraoed Union ministers MJ Akbar and Thawar Chand Gehlot.
The situation is so volatile that many politicians are reluctant to go out in their areas.
The administration is worried too. The aggressive anti-reservation stir does not have a visible leadership. It is almost a faceless leadership, led by obscure organisations at the fringe of political system.
A motley crowd of more than two dozen loosely-knit, rudderless organisations, often consisting of lumpen elements, had given the call for the September 6 bandh.
That they could succeed is both puzzling, and frightening. It is not easy to control such leaderless crowds.
One major reason of the success of anti-reservation agitation in MP is the ground work done by an organisation for government officers and employees belonging to general, OBC and minority categories, known by its acronym, SAPAKS.
The organisation was born out of frustration over the Government’s refusal to implement MP High Court’s decision quashing reservation in promotions.
It is also a reaction to government officers’ associations formed on caste lines — AJAKS for scheduled caste and tribes and APAKS for OBCs.
The BSP’s predecessor, DS4 also started as an association for government employees.
SAPAKS has now formed a political wing that has applied for registration with the Election Commission, intending to contest all the 230 vidhan sabha seats in MP.
Even if it does not win, It may affect the outcome on those 44 seats where candidates won by a margin of less than five thousand votes.
Demography of upper caste
Upper caste voters have their demographic pockets of influence in the state.
Few people realise that Vindhya Pradesh has one of the highest concentration of Brahmins in India, about 14 per cent according to the last caste-based census conducted in 1931.
In Madhya Bharat, according to that census, the proportion of Rajputs is 9 per cent —- higher than in Rajasthan. One cannot win elections in Sagar without Jain support.
The split in upper caste votes, political pundits feel, will affect the BJP more than the Congress. Being the party in power both in New Delhi and Bhopal, the BJP must take the flake.
It may suffer, proportionately, more damage by losing its traditional hold among upper caste voters.
Said a senior Congress leader: “The development will harm both the BJP and the Congress, but they may account for 80 per cent of the losses.”
And the Congress seems delighted at the prospect.
DB Post 8 September 2018