The closely fought Gujarat Polls finally resulted in a BJP victory. However, the BJP failed to achieve the 150 mark that it had set for itself and it had to contend with mere 99 seats which means a marginal victory given that the requisite number of seats for forming the Government was 92.
Political analysts have gone into a number of reasons regarding the unexpectedly narrow margin of victory including demonetization, implementation of GST, Rahul’s visits, etc. But one of the seriously undermined reasons behind this narrow victory is the return of the old villain – Development versus Reservation narrative triggered by the rise of the PAAS immediately preceding the Elections.
A lot has been said and written about Hardik Patel and co. but thus far there have not been an attempt to decipher the larger obnoxious ramifications of Gujarat poll results. Let’s take a look at some of the threats emanating from the rise of PAAS.
Revival of Mandal like Politics:
Mandal Commission marks one of the most unfortunate and darkest events of India’s history post 1947. It is flummoxing how the political leadership had deserted the country’s youth for political and electoral gains. While the youth of the country was immolating itself, political leadership at all levels remained unabashedly silent in fear of disturbing caste equations.
Gujarat results could very well revive the caste and reservation politics with States competing to woo certain dominant groups by giving unjustified and illegitimate perks in order to muster powerful caste equations. This could in turn create social friction similar to that created by the implementation of the Mandal Commission report and derail the Nation from real issues of public money importance. The Nation as a whole might suffer from such vote bank politics and in the Indian context the political leadership at any level is always susceptible of choosing caste over merit. Another wave of illegitimate reservation Orders will result in frail administration with incapable officials and will also create a social divide with the meritorious members of “privileged” classes thrown out of public service and higher education.
Development on the backburner:
It is the State of Gujarat that we are talking about. A state which had seen massive development and growth in the last 22 years. It is threatening to know that Caste Politics could find takers in a state like Gujarat which has witnessed unparalleled growth over the years. If this is the case with a state like Gujarat one can only imagine the political atmosphere when a backward State whose inhabitants have not witnessed much development goes into Elections. Such States will be vulnerable to such divisive politics especially around Elections for the people of such States won’t be able to properly appreciate developmental work. The incumbent Governments might therefore look to woo voters by announcing bizzare reservation schemes akin to the Patidar reservation movement. The State Governments would also be reluctant to focus on the issue of development as an electoral issue for it won’t be a major factor as far as elections are concerned.
If 2014 General Elections were a turning point as Development became one of the major issues if not the dominant one, 2017 Gujarat Assembly Elections are also a major landmark as it might result in stalling of the issue of development and Reservation Politics might once again become the way of winning elections.
India has never been free from the evil called reservation politics ever since the idea of reservation itself came into picture. We have seen the horrors of Mandal Commission and any strong steps to further reservation benefits to certain politically strong communities will prove to be the last straw. Even if we were to assume that somehow smooth administration will be managed, reservation politics similar to the implementation of Mandal Commission Report will create a social divide that will be almost impossible to overcome.
The Government at the Centre has promised ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’. It is time to live up to the claim of development for all, appeasement of none. Whittling down the existing reservation laws could be the way ahead and an attempt to forge an anti-Reservation Caste coalition is desperately needed otherwise we might slowly succumb to PAAS-like entities existing or which come into existence in different parts of the country.