Return of Violent Politics

ritaThe UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s below par statement is highly condemnable. Equally censorable is Mayawati’s harsh words against Mahatma few weeks ago. But the former’s house got torcher but the latter went scoot free. Anyway after one and half decades of peaceful politics India seems to be returning to the violent era. Along with the Lucknow episode, Congress violence in West Bengal signals this phase. It is highly worrisome.

The Times of India writes (17 July 2009)

An insensitive and condemnable remark by UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi has BSP chief and state chief minister Mayawati hopping mad. The
Congress leader has been booked under the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and her house in Lucknow was torched allegedly by BSP cadre. Mayawati has refused to accept Bahuguna’s claim that her remark was taken out of context. Bahuguna was wrong to reduce rape to a rhetorical debate regarding compensation and drag Mayawati’s name into it, but the UP chief minister’s over-the-top response smacks of vindictiveness. Mayawati must graciously accept Bahuguna’s public apology and arrest the arsonists instead.

The BSP chief has sought to interpret Bahuguna’s remark as an insult to Dalits and representative of a Congress mindset towards the community. Clearly, Mayawati wants to make the incident a political issue and consolidate her Dalit support base, which in recent times has been wooed by the Congress. The Congress, with Rahul Gandhi as its face, has been trying hard to regain its erstwhile Dalit vote base, especially in UP where they constitute nearly 20 per cent of the population. In the recent Parliament elections, the Congress saw a revival in the state. Its seat tally went up from nine in 2004 to 21. However, the BSP, hoping for a repeat of the 2007 assembly elections which it had won, did not do as well as expected: the party won only 20 seats and its vote share fell from 30.5 per cent in 2007 to 27 per cent in 2009.

The aggressive response to Bahuguna’s speech may, or may not, help BSP consolidate its Dalit base. But a polarisation will not allow the BSP to further its sarvajan politics. Sure, the attempt to build a rainbow coalition of Brahmins, Dalits and few other castes may not have helped the BSP in the Lok Sabha elections. Such caste coalitions are bound to unravel sooner rather than later if not backed by good administration. Mayawati must realise that the Congress didn’t gain in UP by positing an alternative caste alliance to the BSP. It won votes on a development agenda.

The BSP should take the cue from the Congress and reinvent itself as a party of governance. Mayawati needs to protect the social and economic interests of Dalits in UP but she must not forget that as chief minister her job is to ensure the social and economic development of the whole state. That’s the way forward for the BSP if it wants to establish itself as a serious player in national politics.

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