Caste politics and UP: Mayawati's comments tell us why it won't end
Mayawati's claiming that she will continue to hold caste-based rallies under different names is perhaps a sign of how parties can't break away from caste-based politics.
Lucknow: A normally silent Mayawati was the first political leader to express her opposition to the recent judgement of the Allahabad High Court which enforced a ban on the caste based political rallies in the state.
“Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will continue to hold its caste rallies but will call them ‘Sarva Samaj Bhaichara Sammelans’ if people have so much objection to them”, Mayawati, the national president of the BSP, declared.
She has also advised the UPA government to appeal against the high court verdict.
The BSP is completely dependent on its 'Bhaichara Sammelans' (brotherhood conventions) which it keeps holding for different communities and castes like Muslims, Brahmins, Vaishyas, Kurmi and many others. Its most recent rally was the Brahmin Sammelan, which was held in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh on 7 July. It was a couple of days after this rally that the Allahabad High Court, while hearing a public interest petition, banned the caste based rallies.
Until Mayawati's outburst, the state's political parties had kept mum on the issue.
However, a well prepared Mayawati, with written speech in hand, became the first political leader to react to the ban. She explained why her party holds these caste conventions and if her speech were to be believed at face value, she wasn't doing it for political gain.
“Society is based on caste and full of disparities. There are castes, especially SC/ST, which never got the opportunity to move ahead in life. Working on the ideology of our ideals like Jyotiba Phule, Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram, my party is dedicated to their cause," she said.
"We are not holding these conventions for any political gain. Even in the past all the caste conventions done by the party were not to divide the society but to bring various segments of society, especially the excluded and down trodden in the mean stream. My party wants to eliminate the social inequity from the society,” claimed the former chief minister of the state.
Mayawati said her party would continue to hold such conventions till society changed and everyone had an equal opportunities.
While sticking to her traditional form of politics, Mayawati has appealed to the high court to instead review banning the organisations like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
“If the court has banned the caste based rallies, it should also consider enforcing ban on such outfits which work behind the curtains, but decide the ideology of parties like BJP. They even decide on who would become the prime minister of the country,” she said.
The BJP was understandably quick to condemn the statement. The party state president LK Bajpai dared Mayawati to withdraw support from the UPA and ask it to ban these organisations.
Senior spokesperson Vijay Pathak alleged that Mayawati has failed to differentiate between social groups and political parties.
“The Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are not political outfits they are working on social issues as part of society. As far as decision on the prime minister candidate is concerned, it is the people who would make the decision,” Pathak said.
The regional parties of Uttar Pradesh, namely Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP are very dependent on caste politics. Since coming to power in the state, the SP had been working on schemes to appease the Muslim community – like building boundaries around all kabristans (graveyards), releasing Muslim youths arrested on charges of terrorism, posting two Muslim policemen at each police station, and extending a financial grant to Muslim girls for education.
However, while reacting to Mayawati's arguments, the SP tried to project its secular image. The party's state spokesperson and minister Rajendra Chowdhary said Mayawati's statements reflected that she was perturbed by the court order.
"Caste politics has been started by Mayawati and she divided the society conducting these caste conventions. On the contrary, Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the trend and promoted all castes,"said Chowdhary.
However, irrespective of what Mayawati or the SP say, the fact is that over the years caste has become the core of politics in Uttar Pradesh and all parties either covertly or openly depend on caste equations to make a mark.
The court verdict is a small step to eliminate the practice but there are miles to go before politics can be completely cleansed of caste and development becomes a core issue in Uttar Pradesh.
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