Dalit or not, BJP can thank its lucky stars for putting Sadhvi Jyoti issue behind

The Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti issue may have blown over following the compromise worked out by the Rajya Sabha chairman, but the question that will remain with us is this: did the BJP make a boo-boo by calling her a Dalit when Mayawati, who likes to reserve certification rights for Dalithood to herself, said she was not one?

The BJP’s claim that she was a Dalit was key to blunting the opposition’s assault on the party in parliament for her dubious ‘Ramzaade-Haramzaade” remarks. It could now claim that she was being excessively targeted more for her Dalit status than her actual crime (hate speech). Without that, it would have been tough for the Prime Minister to defend her ministership. Any upper caste minister making a similar statement would have been given the boot. However, a Dalit being shown the door for foot-in-mouth sins is unusual.

No one disagrees that the Sadhvi comes from a really backward caste and rural background. But was she actually a Dalit, given that she won her Lok Sabha seat from a general constituency (Fatehpur) and not an SC reserved seat? BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on the floor of the house that she was indeed a Dalit, while Mayawati rejected his claim.

 Dalit or not, BJP can thank its lucky stars for putting Sadhvi Jyoti issue behind

BJP's Niranjan Jyoti. AFP.

Apparently, both the BJP and Mayawati were right and wrong in their own way. The reason is the notified list of scheduled castes (SCs) is not the same all over the country. Thus one can be an SC in Delhi and not in Uttar Pradesh. According to the 2011 Census of India’s primary abstract of the SC List, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti belongs to the Nishad or Mallah or kewat (boatmen) community. She would be considered a Dalit (ie, and SC) in Delhi. The Mallah community is listed at Serial No 25 in Delhi’s SC/ST list. Some 36 communities are categorised as SC in this capital city-state.

However, this community does not find a mention in Uttar Pradesh’s list of SCs. Some 66 communities have been classified as SCs in Uttar Pradesh, and the Sadhvi’s community is not one of them.

So both Maya and Naqvi are right in their own way. Due to this, despite her disgraceful comments, her name will continue to figure as a party campaigner in the Delhi polls, a Delhi BJP leader told Firstpost. It is not clear how exactly the party will use her services, but she is not being blackballed.

Behind the party’s show of unity in the face of equally ferocious and united opposition attacks, the BJP leadership has been discomfited by the Sadhvi’s bigoted remarks. Some also wonder why Modi decided to bring her into the ministry where the emphasis is on efficiency and delivery. A party leader told Firstpost that her name made it to the cabinet expansion list only at the last minute, as she is from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). She and Phulphur MP Keshav Maurya were two VHP nominees who made it as BJP candidates in the last Lok Sabha polls.

The Sadhvi herself had lost two assembly elections before her spectacular success in the Modi-Amit Shah wave of 2014. Perhaps the party was looking for backward/SC faces to showcase, and she made it for that reason. Or it could have been a move to appease the VHP with minor concessions while focusing on the development agenda.

2014 saw the return of all the old BJP Hindutva icons, from Kalyan Singh to Uma Bharati. Sadhvi Jyoti is somewhat like the firebrand Sadhvi Rithambara of yesteryear in terms of her language, and her Ramzaade-Haramzaade remark has effectively incapacitated herself politically even though she remains a minister.

The opposition - Congress, Left, TMC and some fragments of the Janata Parivar - realised that Modi wouldn’t drop her from the Council of Ministers and thus scaled down their demand to getting a resolution passed in Parliament, particularly in the Rajya Sabha. Now, they seem to have accepted a mild request by the Rajya Sabha chairman on the issue to resolve the deadlock.

Having put the government on the backfoot, the opposition saw no point is pushing its disruptions further, which could have backfired on it politically at some stage. The logjam, in fact, ensured that other issues – like the terror attacks in Chhattisgarh and J&K – could not be raised in parliament. The Delhi rape by a Uber cab driver, which is another stick the opposition could have used to beat the government with, would also have been lost in the Sadhvi din.

The BJP has escaped the Sadhvi embarrassment by the skin of its teeth. It can thank its lucky stars rather than any Dalit issue for it.

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Updated Date: Dec 08, 2014 16:20:36 IST