Rajasthan Assembly polls: Alwar may slip out of BJP's grip as lynchings, subjugation of SC/STs polarise voters

Alwar: Alwar district in Rajasthan seems to be slipping away from the BJP, which had won 10 of the 11 seats in last Assembly election. The polarisation of the SC/STs and Muslims against the BJP is expected to erode the party's numbers considerably on 7 December when the state goes to polls.

The Meo Muslims haven't forgotten the the mob lynchings, which took the lives of Pehlu Khan, Umar Khan and, Rakbar Khan, or the continuing harassment that they faced at the hands of self-styled gau rakshaks.

That the state government failed to take action against these perpetrators, further deteriorated the Vasundhara Raje government's image.

As for SC/STs in Alwar, the ruling party's attempt to amend the SC/ST Atrocities Act didn't bode well with the community. The death of Dalit youth Pawan Kumar Jatav in police firing during the Bharat Bandh of 2 April earlier this year, and the heavy-handed police action against protesters when angry mobs burnt police vehicles and attacked several police stations — Over 3,000 FIRs were filed against protesters in Khairthal, a small town in Alwar district — rankles deeply in the community.

Voters in Nagla Samawadi village in Alwar, Rajasthan. Rajendra Sharma

Voters in Nagla Samawadi village in Alwar, Rajasthan. Rajendra Sharma

'Looking at Congress'

“The cow issue has created a wall between the Hindu and Muslim communities,” said Pappu Khan, a Meo Muslim who resides in Nasopur, Ramgarh. He adds, "The Meo community nurtures cows in a large number and are scared of going into the fields with their cows for fear of being mistaken as cow slaughterers."

Hakamuddin, a resident of Chandpur, echoes similar sentiment.

“A rift has been created between Hindus and Muslims in Alwar due to several mob lynching cases,” he says, adding, "People in the region are now looking at the Congress for support."

There is also a growing feeling among the Meo Muslims that the BJP does not consider the community as its vote bank despite being the largest voters group in Ramgarh Assembly constituencies. "The BJP has not done anything for us in the last five years,” said Khan.

Dalits and Meos together comprise 7.5 lakh voters in Alwar district. The number goes up to 9 lakhs if other SC/ST communities are included. Support from these communities is crucial to any party’s electoral performance in this region.

The overall caste distribution of the population in Alwar is 4.5 lakh SCs, 3.6 lakh Yadavs, three lakh Brahmins, 3.5 lakh Meos, 2.1 lakh Jats, 2 lakh Meenas, 1.7 lakh Vaishyas, 1.3 lakh Malis, one lakh Sikh-Punjabis and Gujjars each, 60,000 Rajputs, and 1.5 lakh other voters, according to sources.

Besides Ramgarh, Dalits and Meo communities form major vote bank in Alwar Rural, Kishangarh Bas and Tijara constituencies. Dalits remain angry with the BJP in all these constituencies.

“The BJP had conspired to suppress the community,” said Rattiyam, a villager belonging to the SC community. “FIRs were lodged against people from SC/ST communities and they are being tortured. BJP had assured to take back the cases but nothing has been done,” he added.

BJP looking for alternatives

Jitendra Singh, former minister of state, who also represented Alwar Lok Sabha constituency as a Congress MP, says the BJP works towards dividing the public in the name of caste and religion. "This is why the party has made efforts towards creating tussles among communities, and thereby, spoiling the harmonious relationship. BJP has not done anything for the development of the region and Congress promises to stand by the residents of Alwar during all situations."

The BJP is aware that it's facing a double blow of anti-incumbency and non-performance of sitting MLAs in the district. "Some resentment is always there and we are trying to address this,” said BJP district president Sanjay Naruka.

“We want to include everyone and I am sure people will realise this and vote for us," he adds. The BJP's candidate list indicate that the party is looking for alternatives to current leaders as a repair measure.

Two key BJP Hindutva leaders and sitting MLAs, Gyan Dev Ahuja and Banwari Lal Singhal, both known to spread antipathy against the Meo community, have been denied tickets, probably to tone down the Hindutva stance.

“If the party has denied me a ticket because of the voice I have raised to protect Hindutva, then I must tell the party that I will keep fighting for the interests of Hindus,” says Singhal.

“I respect the party’s decision to not give me a ticket,” he adds.

Gyan Dev Ahuja, however, resigned from the party and is not contesting in this election.

The author is a freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters

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Updated Date: Nov 23, 2018 08:47:27 IST

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