By Sushil Kutty
The Bharatiya Janata Party despairs that the opposition INDI-Alliance is dividing Hindus into caste to rob the BJP a chance at victory in the five states’ assembly elections. The moral high-ground the saffron party took by championing a casteless Hindu society, however, does not fetch votes in enough numbers to win elections. Besides, the caste-virus is impossible to eradicate. So it does not come as a surprise that the BJP has shed its moral and ethical skin and is hyperventilating from which caste should the next Telangana Chief Minister come from?
Of course, without a doubt, from an Other Backward Caste, of which there are plenty. Therefore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Telangana, ahead of the November 30 assembly elections, has promised an ‘Other Backward Caste’ Chief Minister for Telangana if the BJP emerges victorious. In Telangana, it does not matter if the Hindu/Hindutva electorate gets horribly and tragically divided.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the ‘BC Atma Gourava Sabha’ in Hyderabad, saying “I can sense that Telangana is ready for a Backward Class CM as the Bharatiya Janata Party will come to power in the state. The winds of change have started blowing”, echoing Union Home Minister Amit Shah from 10 days ago. What Shah says, Modi emphasizes and vice versa. For journalists and political analysts, watching Modi-Shah in action during elections should be made compulsory.
The backward classes and/or the other backward castes have become a factor in Telangana although the BJP hopes there will be no action-replay in the 2024 general elections. The general elections are what concerns the BJP more. Handing Modi a third term is the death-wish of all BJP leaders of note.
Top BJP leaders have been asking for votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In all the stump states, it is ‘Modi-Modi’ all the way, “from the river to the sea”. Every time Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar bring up the issue of caste survey, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s batch of merry men start hyperventilating.
That being said, the BJP’s third Telangana list is overwhelmingly backward class. Also, all the big names were at the Hyderabad rally including Bandi Sanjay Kumar, Union minister G. Kishen Reddy and MLA Etela Rajender. Modi spoke of the BJP wave that would engulf Telangana after the rally.
The Prime Minister asked the crowd of BJP supporters to vote BJP so that a backward class Chief Minister can be installed “just like you made me PM”. The Prime Minister is also an OBC, which fit well the tone and tenor of the Hyderabad rally. “I am very confident that just as you made me PM, you will also make a BJP BC CM,” the Prime Minister requested the audience.
The reality is, Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao and the entire top leadership of the Congress are giving sleepless nights to the Prime Minister and the other BJP leaders assigned to campaign for the BJP in Telangana, where the Congress and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi are neck and neck. And the BJP, which started well, has been lagging since Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra wound its way in and out of Telangana.
According to one media source, there are “134 Backward Class castes’ in Telangana and the state has been asking for a caste-based census. Reports say, the Prime Minister met several OBC leaders “backstage” before he addressed the “mega rally”. People have been asking since then what was the man upto, and why the backstage hush-hush meetings?
Among those who met the Prime Minister was Telangana BC Welfare Association president Jajula Srinivas Goud. News has now spread that the BJP will give 40-50 tickets to OBC candidates because of which there would be a “favourable impression” and a “tremendous pro-BJP wave” in Telangana. The question remains whether even a fraction of the 134 other backward castes will come together to back the BJP on the PM’s say so?
It is a fact that OBC communities have never voted together. Their voting patterns are different. And unlike the Muslims, they do not vote en masse, which is one reason why OBC Chief Ministers are rare. Also, there aren’t enough of them at any one time to “push for a common agenda”. The Prime Minister has apparently given his word to install an OBC Chief Minister if the BJP is elected to power. And he supports Nitish Kumar’s proposal to hike the OBC quota to 65 percent. Will the ‘Prime Minister’s Gambit’ make a difference in Telangana? (IPA Service)