Currently, there is a politically motivated campaign underway to portray the BJP as an anti-Savarna party. The main grievance of the campaign’s supporters is that BJP is indulging in the same appeasement politics, albeit aimed towards a different group that the Congress was voted out for. The underlying theme of the manufactured outrage is that BJP is pandering towards the SC/ST community insofar as to compromise with the interests of the so-called Savarna groups (mostly Brahmins and Thakurs). The ‘compelling’ evidence for this all-too-obvious anti-Savarna stand of the BJP is the central government’s stand on the SC/ST Act. However, upon closer analysis of the policies and facts, the accusations seem to be without any merit whatsoever.
To understand whether the BJP is indeed an anti-Savarna party, let’s take a look at the caste-based political trends in the largest (population wise) state of India, Uttar Pradesh, where BJP not only received a major chunk of its seats in Lok Sabha but also secured a comfortable majority in the assembly elections. CM Yogi, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is often portrayed as the ‘poster boy’ of Hindutva which is, again, portrayed as a political ideology started and sustained by the Savarna groups. In this regard, Uttar Pradesh is a perfect case study on the question of whether BJP is anti-Savarna or not. But before that, let us address the elephant in the room, the central government’s stand on the SC/ST act.
For long, ‘secular-liberal’ parties and their extended support system have created and sustained a fear psychosis among the SC/ST groups where these groups have been told, time and again, that Savarnas are their ‘natural enemies’. The BJP, which has been portrayed as the representative of all the ‘evil’ that the Savarna groups are made of, then, by extension, had been portrayed as traditionally anti-SC/ST. Despite constitutional safeguards to the SC/ST groups and societal change, the fear psychosis had sustained until 2014 when the SC/ST group came out in support of the BJP. Rattled by this unprecedented support to the BJP, the Honorable SC’s verdict on the SC/ST Act provided the secular-liberal parties a perfect ‘I told you so’ moment. The secular-liberal parties portrayed the verdict as BJP government’s endorsement to the dilution of the constitutional safeguards to the SC/ST groups. At this moment, the BJP government, justifiably, stepped in to take appropriate measures to allay the fears of the SC/ST groups. It was not only politically necessary but also, despite the societal changes it would be naïve to believe that caste violence is not there in India and the constitutional safeguards to prevent these kind of incidents are not relevant anymore. This justifiable stand of the government is being portrayed as the ‘anti-Savarna’ stand of the BJP. It would be pertinent to mention that the BJP neither created the SC/ST act nor has taken any measure to strengthen it. It has merely ensured that the act remains as it is. So, labeling the BJP anti-Savarna for a constitutional provision which has been there for years is foolish and unwise.
Now, coming back to the question of whether BJP has actively worked against the interests of Savarna groups, we return to our case study of Uttar Pradesh.
Political patronage and administrative favoritism to regime oriented caste groups has always been a part of the politics of Uttar Pradesh. But the audacity and absolute disregard of rule-based system that the previous SP government displayed during its reign was something hitherto unseen. Yadav caste was not only given political patronage but, disregarding every procedural and ethical conducts, was given preference in administrative apparatus to an absurd level. Consider this, in 2015, 56 out of 86 SDMs appointed by Akhilesh Yadav were from the Yadav community. According to a Times of India report in 2014, more than 60 percent of the police stations were headed by officers belonging to the Yadav community. In the capital, Lucknow, 32 out of 40 police stations were headed by a Yadav officer.
However, the crown jewel in the ‘Yadavisation’ process of the SP government must be the UPPSC. In 2011, in the UPPSC interview exam, while the general and SC/ST candidates received 115 and 105 marks on an average, respectively and the non-Yadav OBCs had to contend with 110 marks, the Yadav group received 138 marks on an average. In 2013, 86 candidates selected for UPPSC among the OBC category, 50 were from the Yadav community. It would be important to note that Yadav community constitutes just 9 percent of the population of UP while their representation in the UPPSC in a single year is more than 60 percent. Either the entire community got some ‘Limitless’ style drug overnight or something fishy was going on. The Headlines Today conducted a sting operation, codenamed ‘Operation Sarkar’, to find out what was the truth. The results were, as expected. There was a systematic preference given to Yadav candidates.
The situation had become so dire that UP High Court had to step in and finally, the appointment of UPPSC chairman, Anil…..Yadav, was cancelled by the Honorable Court.
The story of the Yadavisation of UP Police, from recruitment to promotion has often been told and this is just the tip of the iceberg. These facts are demonstrative of the issue to what level Akhilesh led government went to deny the deserving candidates their rightfully gained seats, instead awarding them to a preferential, regime oriented community. It would be safe to assume that many deserving candidates from Savarna groups were denied employment for which they worked hard and many more were denied promotions they rightly deserved. All was done to promote a specific community and create an ‘eco system’ that would be favorable to the party even if it is out of power. The meritocracy, cornerstone of any society which aspires towards development, was blatantly disregarded.
A government’s role in a democracy is to prepare a level playing field, within the purview of constitutional provisions, where the competent and meritorious can thrive. This is the mantra that the BJP government, led by CM Yogi, has embodied since coming to power. One of the first major steps of the Yogi government was ordering a CBI investigation of the shady recruitment practices under the previous SP regime.
In terms of administrative appointments, Yogi Government again gave preference to meritocracy, efficiency and performance weeding out the sycophants. The results….
The next logical step for the BJP government in UP was to dismantle the criminal-police nexus that had fuelled and sustained the SP regime through it ‘Yadavisation’ process. This was done through the unprecedented crackdown on crime. The ‘De-Yadavisation’ of police department was soon started as a corollary action to break the criminal-police nexus. This, as expected, received a backlash.
Despite the backlash, the BJP government showed its resolve and continued the assault on organized crime, leading to unprecedented results.
The concerted efforts of BJP government to eradicate the chokehold of a particular community on the government machinery have paid off well. Now, there is transparency in the selection process of the government services, meritorious officers are given preferences and competent candidates are getting desired results. Akhilesh government’s order of reservation in private medical and dental colleges was cancelled by the Yogi government as well.
To reduce favoritism of any kind, the BJP government implemented reforms in UPPSC exam pattern, introducing minus markings and most importantly, reducing the number of marks in the interview stage to 100 from the earlier 200.
The De-Yadavisation process of the state machinery might take some time but the important issue is that the BJP government has shown its resolve to do that. As is evident from the above analysis, the BJP government has taken every step to remove the community bias and to end the vicious cycle of community oriented regimes in order to provide a level playing field where the competent can thrive. This has resulted in more inclusive Police force led by able officers who are there because of their merit and not because of their surnames.
The Yadavisation process of SP and similar tactics of other community oriented secular-liberal parties not only were threat to the cohesiveness of the society but also created a very real perception of threat and intimidation among other communities, especially the Brahmins who had earlier aligned with the BJP and to certain extent BSP in the 2007 state elections.
The measures taken by the BJP government has ensured that the kind of reprisals that have been prevalent in the past against particular communities would not be repeated. In UP politics, the Brahmin community had become the ‘punching bag’ of liberal-secular parties and any leader looking to gain instant popularity. The measures and safeguards, as mentioned above, taken by the BJP government would ensure that Brahmin bashing is not incentivized but punished. It is ensuring the politically sensitive communities (those who do not have the scythe of majority to hold the nation or state hostage) feel safe from reprisals through a rule-based system rather than mere rhetoric.
This rule-based meritocracy, after all, is what the Savarna groups have demanded all along because that is where the competent thrive.