Historical analogy cannot be an argument but they are often powerful enough to drive home a point. Nearly 251 years ago in the month of October, Buxar district of Bihar witnessed a battle that paved way for the British Raj. A weak Mughal empire led by Shah Alam (II) along with Shuja-Ud-Daula of Awadh and Mir Quasim of Bengal arraigned an army against East India Company’s Hector Munro. The Mughal army outnumbered the company’s strength by 4:1 but faced humiliating rout. After that the Mughal empire never regained its majesty and splendour.
Faced with an unenviable situation like the company’s army, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to turn the tables on the Grand Alliance today by introducing a new, rather brazenly communal, angle to the reservation debate in his election speech. In what could be consummate theatrics, Modi said, “Nitish and Lalu are conspiring to take away five per cent reservation of the OBCs, EBCs and Dalits and give it away to minorities (meaning Muslims).”
“I will die to protect your rights and never allow conspirators to steal away your reservation” Modi said to an audience, which largely comprised EBCs,OBCs and Dalits in Bihar’s one of most backward regions. In his speech, Modi’s sudden digression to reservation and linking it to religion was a gamble calculated to neutralise the JD(U)-RJD campaign against the BJP.
In the past one month, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav have successfully conveyed to the backward and Dalits that the BJP-RSS would do away with the reservation once they acquire power in Bihar. A significant chunk of the EBCs which sided with the BJP in 2014 elections has seemingly drifted towards the coalition of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad. In PM’s Buxar rally, the party’s unease with the drift of its support base was evident.
The party is banking heavily on the Hindutva bastion that goes to polls on the third and fourth phases to sail through in the assembly polls. However, the indications from the ground point to erosion of ground from under the BJP’s feet. That the battle has reached a critical phase was evident in the manner Modi delivered his speech and shed the diffidence of being a prime minister.
His selective reference to BR Ambedkar and Rajendra Prasad and debates of the Constituent Assembly was meant to convey that reservation in jobs could not be given on the basis of religion. Modi has consistently maintained this position which is in conformity with the RSS’s line of thinking. In one of the meetings of the National Development Council (NDC), he vehemently opposed the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposition that the minority had a first right on the country’s resources.
Modi has been quite cautious while expressing himself on the matter of religion after taking over as prime minister. But Modi the politician could not resist the temptation of playing the religion card in Buxar and tried to turn the tide in his favour and drive confusion in the enemy camp by resorting to lies and half-truth. In a state like Bihar where state patronage is a major source of sustenance, Modi’s words are expected to give a new twist to the discourse on reservation.
What would be the worst fear of the Grand Coalition is the communalisation of the reservation issue in the remaining three phases of the polls. Modi has given enough indication that he is not averse to taking this path if it suits the BJP. Apparently the PM’s speech at Buxar has all the potential of giving a new twist to the poll and re-drawing battle lines which are etched on shifting grounds of ethics and morality.
Updated Date: Oct 26, 2015 22:25 PM