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Congress lures Brahmins – Bahujan votes to compromise? 

With the election season unfolding, the election menu card has decked up with the fresh majority appeasement that’s now supposedly considered a hotcake by the Congress party to crack the upcoming polls. Besides issues like unemployment, mess around GST and demonetisation, farmers who are killing themselves under the debt burden, falling rupee, and rising fuel price in the political platter, reservation for the Brahmins has found a top placement.

As scheduled, Haryana is gearing up to hold both the Lok Sabha and its state assembly elections next year. At a time when national affairs are focussing its attention on the commotion around the amended SC/ST Act and outfits linked to the upper that castes held Bharat Bandh on Thursday, Congress’s party media-in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala’s Brahmin caste card caught the eye. Addressing the state-level Brahmin seminar in Haryana’s Kurukshetra on Monday, Surjewala promised 10 per cent reservation to poor and announced the setting up of Bhagwan Parshuram Sanskrit University if Congress is voted to the power.

The Congress leader recalled the contribution of the Brahmin community in India’s freedom struggle and spoke of the freedom fighters Chandra Shekhar Azad, Mangal Pandey, Pandit Moti Lal Nehru, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru claiming that Brahmins were always “the integral part” of Indian National Congress. He further assured to constitute a Brahmin Kalyan Board that would provide Rs 100 crore soft loan per annum and scholarships to the “needy Brahmin youths” on 4 per cent interest.

Three chairs in the name of Pandit Parshuram, Pandit Lakhmi Chand, and Pt Bhagwat Dayal Sharma would be set up in Maharshi Dayanand University, Kurukshetra University, and Chaudhary Devi Lal University respectively, the Congress spokesperson announced further.

Mahila Pradesh Congress General Secretary and Advocate Manisha Rote said, “Reservation should be there for the deprived class of the society. Surjewala in his address meant that Brahmins who are socially and economically marginalised, too deserve reservation.”

“With passing time, with the help of social surveys, reservation must be given to the right people. Our Constitution approves equal rights for everyone but there are many people from the upper castes that have no access to the basic facilities. Congress is the only party that’s taking a stand to favour equality,” she added.

Approaching the backward class in the ‘Backward Classes Sammelan’ in Chandigarh last month, Surjewala had also promised 27 per cent reservation in the Haryana government’s gazetted posts if Congress is elected after the nearing state assembly elections.

Tuning similarly with Rote, Congress spokesperson Hemlata Patil asserted, “BJP is an opportunistic party and they talk of Ram Mandir only before the election. However, Congress is always beside the weaker class of the society and Surjewala had no intention to hurt any community. If the deprived section of the Brahmin community gets the reservation, there’s no point of other communities getting offended.”

Congress has Brahmin Samaj’s DNA in its blood, said Surjewala. He targeted the Haryana Chief Minister for disregarding the Brahmins in the state and in chorus also attacked the Narendra Modi government for sidelining the Brahmin leaders in his government. The disappointment of the constitutionally acclaimed Indian deprived class against BJP has taken a major shape after the Bhima-Koregaon violence, mob lynching incidents linked with cow protection, Una flogging in Gujarat, and similar cases. Fearing a backlash from the community, the government even overturned the Supreme Court verdict “diluting” the SC/ST Atrocities Act. In a situation when the minorities are already upset with the BJP government, Congress is taking the ‘caste politics’ to a new height purportedly thinking appeasing the ‘upper caste’ or the Brahmins can act fruitful, though the political experts see the decision as a thin line.

Maharashtra BJP state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari attacked Congress saying that the party members issue statements only according to their convenience. “Congressmen don’t even understand what they say randomly. If Congress thinks BJP failed to care for the Brahmins, they must do the job their way,” Bhandari said.

While RSS prachar pramukh (Konkan region) Pramod Bapat exclaimed, “Any political party can come up with caste reservation promises, but it won’t be a good thing to polarise our society. Everyone should come together to build a collective society instead of underplaying the caste dividing policy.”

Over the years, Congress has consistently attacked the ruling party for being ‘anti-lower caste’; moreover, the minorities and the Bahujan Samaj were believed to be the party’s vote bank. The shocking defeat in 2014 and set back in many other assembly polls following that, Congress 2019 campaigning to appeal the Hindu majority inflamed after initially being as ‘Soft Hindutva’.

Congress MLC Anant Gadgil said that giving any new reservation now is practically impossible and seems to be difficult because the Supreme Court directives don’t permit more than 50 per cent reservation.

Will this help the largest opposition party in its run towards the next general elections and state elections? Will these recent promises relieve the Hindu majority from its issues or it will again end up making the Brahmins only another vote bank tool? Whatever this leads to in the coming time, a large part of the political experts believes that the shifting of Congress’s interest to the Hindu majority community can cost them the loss of their firm vote bank i.e. the minority and the backward class.

Anup Thakur, a Thane resident called both the Brahmins who are asking for reservation and the Congress who wants to give the same, unjustified. He further said, “The system of reservation must be abolished but these political parties are carrying it forward making it more complicated. The backward class vote very sensitively and this decision of Congress can hurt the community sentiment. This will have a negative impact on the party in the upcoming polls.”

 

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