It is not only the "secularists" that have been left wondering about their future by the comment of Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Anant Kumar Hegde on Constitution.
His own colleagues in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka are at their wits' end coming to terms with the impact his statement has made on Dalit communities when Karnataka Assembly elections are just four months away.
Hegde's statement that "we are here to change the Constitution" has given rise to apprehension among the Dalit communities as well, particularly the educated sections in the urban areas, that the BJP government at the Centre could well change the reservation policy in the country.
"His statement has pained a lot of members of our community. Our people are now saying that if we elect the BJP to power in Karnataka, it might help the ruling party at the Centre to bring about the changes to the reservation policy," a Dalit leader of the BJP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Firstpost.
A former lawmaker, who didn't want to be named, said — "If he had only said that there have been many amendments to the Constitution and we will also bring some, it would not have made so much of an impact. But, by saying "we are here to change the Constitution," he has given room for the Congress to create a sense of insecurity among the Dalits."
The sense of apprehension is also grounded in the fact that there have been frequent statements every few months from either the BJP or the RSS leaders suggesting changes to the reservation policy in the country.
Hegde had said at a public meeting in Koppal that he would be happy if people "claim with pride that they are Muslim, Christian, Lingayat, Brahmin or a Hindu. Those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don’t have their own identity. They don’t know about their parentage, but they are intellectuals."
He also said that "some people say the Constitution itself mentions secular and you must accept it. We will respect the Constitution but the Constitution has changed several times and it will change in the future too. We are here to change the Constitution and we will change it."
Hegde’s speech was, generally, presumed to be aimed at changing the secular character of the Constitution because he had spoken pointedly about those who are secularists. But, it now appears that his controversial statement has another dimension that has made the Dalits worry about.
"The educated sections among the Dalits are certainly concerned about his statement because it affects them directly. They clearly apprehend trouble in the future," said KL Ashok, a social activist.
Guruprasad Keragodu of the Dalit Sangharsha Samithi said, "This is loose talk for political advantage that he is indulging in. We held demonstrations in several parts of the state demanding that he resign. They can neither change or remove the reservation policy."
"Basically, he (Hegde) is speaking like this because they cannot tolerate the growth of the Dalits and the OBCs in various fields. People like him want to bring in Manushastra. He wants to instigate the caste Hindus against the Dalits and OBCs. They are doing it only because their party has no other issue to fight the elections next year,” said Indudhara Honnapura, Dalit writer and activist.
But, this “total intolerance,” as Honnapura puts it, is something that the Dalit leaders in the BJP are a bit worried about. In the 2008 elections, BJP leader and party’s current chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, had stitched up a caste-based arrangement that fetched the party a majority of the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
In the northern districts of Karnataka, it is the Left Sect among the Dalits who are in a larger number than the Right Sect. Yeddyurappa had chosen a large number of candidates belonging to the Left Sect and the Tribal communities in contrast to the Congress that had always promoted the Right Sect candidates.
This caste-based arrangement ensured that the major caste group of Lingayats supported the Left Sect or the tribal community representative in the reserved constituencies while the members of the Dalit communities supported the Lingayat candidates in the adjoining general constituencies.
“Hegde’s utterances have given room for the Congress party men to exploit the situation and break this arrangement,” said a BJP leader who also belonged to the Dalit community.
Updated Date: Dec 28, 2017 10:35:40 IST