Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the CM of Madhya Pradesh, has announced that the MP government will constitute Savarna Aayog (upper caste commission) to address the issue of economic backwardness among the upper caste people in the state. The state already has Scheduled Caste Commission, Scheduled Tribe Commission, Minority Commission, and Other Backward Class Commission, and the people of the upper caste should not be deprived of the opportunity.
The Economically Weaker Section (EWS) among the upper caste has resentment against reservation. The Union government addressed this issue with a 10 per cent quota for upper caste people from 2019. Going a step further to address the issues of the EWS section among the upper caste, the Chouhan government has now announced the formation of an upper-caste commission in Madhya Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh has around 22 per cent upper caste population, most of whom traditionally vote for BJP. But, in the 2018 assembly election, the upper caste rallied against BJP due to a few anti-upper caste statements by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan ahead of the election. This also led to the formation of many small parties in the state like Savarna Samaj and Sapaks, mainly focused on the upper caste population.
Such small parties voted NOTA to cut a large chunk of BJP’s vote and this led to the defeat of the party in the assembly election. In the regions like Vindhya Pradesh and Gwalior, with a significant upper caste population, BJP performed very poorly, resulting in Chouhan losing the election.
In July 2016, Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “koi maa ka laal aarakshan khatm nahi kar sakta (no one can dare to do away with reservation)”. This statement had infuriated the upper caste voters in Madhya Pradesh and BJP lost the election. Soon the BJP government at the centre decided to overrule the Supreme Court’s ruling on SC/ST acts through an amendment passed in parliament.
The upper castes across the country are against the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which, in many cases, has been used by the lower caste people to harass them unnecessarily. Therefore, the Centre’s decision to overrule the SC ruling did not go well with the masses and they decided to teach BJP a lesson.
However, since then, BJP has taken many corrective steps to bring back the upper caste voter base in its fold. To placate Brahmins, BJP first chose Gopal Bhargav, a Brahmin, as the Leader of Opposition, and after that in February last year, the saffron party appointed Vishnu Dutt Sharma, MP from Khajuraho and General Secretary of Madhya Pradesh unit as the Chief of the state unit.
The appointment of Sharma, a Brahmin from Northern Madhya Pradesh, where Shivraj Singh Chouhan suffered a massive setback due to resentment from the upper caste, was a step to placate the upper caste, especially Brahmins, who have traditionally voted for BJP but chose otherwise in the 2018 state assembly election.
In the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, BJP lost by a few seats. The party won 107 seats in the 230 member assembly against 114 of the Congress party, which made the government ally with BSP, SP, and other independent parties. BJP won a higher popular vote percentage with 41 per cent against 40.9 per cent of Congress.
After appointing Brahmin leaders at senior positions as a corrective step, the Chouhan government has decided to constitute an upper caste commission to address the issues of the EWS and the upper caste will soon rally behind the saffron party again. The move will immensely help the party in the upcoming local elections in MP.