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Why the BJP leadership is WORRIED

By Archana Masih
August 03, 2016 14:44 IST
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'It is significant that the PM hasn't uttered a word about the Dalits and the Una incident.'
'It is very interesting that the RSS is sending sadhus to Una.'
'They will again talk about Hindu unity to woo the Dalits.'

A Dalit rally in Ahmedabad

"At the all India level, the presence of the Dalit population is very significant. It is 15% to 20% in many states. That is why the BJP leadership is alarmed," Achyut Yagnik, one of India's finest political thinkers, tells's Archana Masih.

What is your assessment of Anandiben Patel's exit as Gujarat's chief minister?

The BJP in Gujarat is facing many problems. First with the Patidar agitation from last year. Then with the Dalit agitation. Thirdly, they have neglected agriculture over the years and that also created problems in the rural sectors.

In the elections to the panchayats and municipalities last December, the BJP lost heavily.

The high command of the BJP leadership is very worried about the election in December 2017. To correct the situation they need at least one year. In that context, they have asked Anandiben to resign.

In the last two days, she is writing and speaking according to script. Today or tomorrow, we will know whether they are going for a Patel or the present leader of the BJP in Gujarat (Vijay Rupani).

How different will the new BJP dispensation in Gujarat be compared to the previous one?

There is a sense of disappointment in the people. In the last two years, the situation hasn't improved at the ground level.

The Patidar community, which is 15% of the population, feels deprived and is disappointed. There are multiple reasons for that. They feel the government is not doing anything for them. Since 1985, they have been the backbone of the BJP and are a dominant community in Gujarat.

So it all depends on how they are going to improve the situation.

Can the Patidars be won back by the BJP?

It depends on how the new chief minister and the BJP high command take action to improve the situation.

Anandiben was handpicked by Prime Minister Modi to lead Gujarat. In that context, it is significant that she had to step down.

Both Anandiben Patel and Amit Shah were the right and left hand of Modi in the last 15 years. Now Amit Shah is president of the BJP and is operating at the national level.

Anandiben, in a way, failed to fulfil the dream of Modi and the BJP high command. Now the BJP is passing through a critical phase in Gujarat.

With electoral battles coming up in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, how is the BJP going to manage both states?

They are facing problems in UP also. UP is more important because it is the biggest state in India. Compared to it, Gujarat is a small state with only 5% of India's population, but because Modi and Shah are both from Gujarat, it is very important for them to win Gujarat.

In your understanding of Gujarati society, what is the meaning of this Dalit upsurge in the state?

For the first time Dalits have raised their voice and mobilised without any organisation or leadership. That is very significant. Particularly, it started in Saurashtra which is a princely state.

The younger generation of Dalits is raising their voice and asserting itself against both injustice and the state government.

There is inequality at multiple levels in Saurashtra and Gujarat -- and more importantly, the younger generation wants employment.

Joblessness has created this problem for the Patidars and the Dalits. Even with reservation, Dalits are not getting jobs.

What impact will the Dalit agitation have on the Gujarat elections, if any?

The tribal population in Gujarat is 15%, while the Dalits are 7% of the population. Over and above, this will impact the UP election also.

After Mayawati raised her voice in Parliament about the Una incident, it became a national issue. It will affect the BJP's chances in both UP and Gujarat.

Are we likely to see more Dalit agitations?

As far as Gujarat is concerned, Dalits are divided into seven sub castes. In Saurashtra we find the Dalit population is going beyond the sub caste and raising their voice as Dalits. So Dalits are united and asserting themselves.

The BJP is obviously alarmed because it has triggered Anandiben's exit.

Of course, and there is the UP election also. It became a national issue because at the all-India level, the presence of the Dalits population is very significant. It is 15% to 20% in many states. That is why the BJP leadership is alarmed.

What do you think the BJP will do now to retain power in the state?

It is very interesting that the RSS is sending sadhus and saints to Una village in Saurashtra to improve their image. They will again talk about Hindu unity to woo the Dalits back.

The issue of joblessness is very important. They need to bring jobs and improve agriculture.

What will the prime minister do to strengthen the BJP in his state?

By having a new chief minister they might think they are improving the situation. It is also significant that the prime minister hasn't uttered a word about the Dalits and the Una incident in Gujarat.

The name of the new chief minister will indicate what policy they are going to pursue. Whether they are going to choose a Patel or Rupani, who is from the Jain community. Whether it will be from a dominant community or a comparatively neutral person from the caste calculus point of view.

IMAGE: Dalits attend a Mahasammelan in Ahmedabad, July 31, 2016, in the wake of the recent Una incident. Photograph: PTI Photo

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