India’s cow politics

India’s cow politics

Rajeev Sharma
The political clock appears to have started ticking slowly but surely for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The writing on the wall is getting clearer and clearer for Modi and the BJP, as they continue to cede ground to the opposition. This stark reality became evident when Anandiben Patel, the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi’s home state, put in her papers on Aug. 1 and sought to be relieved of her chief ministerial duties.
This is not a resignation but a sacking, which had become inevitable after a huge crowd of Dalits or people belonging to backward castes, converged on the streets of Ahmedabad this weekend.
Ostensibly, Patel called it quits saying she attains the age of 75 in two months from now and she respects Modi’s rule that all politicians above the age of 75 must retire. But this is just a charade. BJP politicians like Kalyan Singh continue to be in power in the Modi dispensation even after they are 75 plus.
The fact is that Patel has found herself in the eye of the political storm since last year when her government failed to tackle a massive people’s arrest by members of the influential Patel community led by Modi’s new bête noire Hardik Patel. Just a few days ago, another mass uprising erupted on the streets of Ahmedabad, twin city of Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, when scores of thousands of Dalits demonstrated against her rule. The last incident proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back as the uprising by the Dalits in Gujarat came at a time when the BJP is preparing for the all-important assembly elections in the swing state of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls before January 2017.
Patel’s failure, first to deal with the Patel community last year and now with the Dalits, has made her persona non grata in the Modi establishment and her exit has nothing to do with her age. She has been axed by the BJP leadership with an eye on the upcoming UP polls.
This brings us to many other political predicaments and challenges that Modi and his BJP are currently faced with. The Dalit agitation against the Modi government in Gujarat and in many other states has come at a time when the BJP needs this electorally powerful bloc the most to win upcoming assembly elections in UP and Punjab where the Dalits are in large numbers. Besides. Gujarat itself is due to have assembly polls by December 2017.
The biggest undoing of the Modi government in the past few days has been because of the politics of cow protection being played by vigilante groups owing sympathy to the BJP. The current sociopolitical unrest in Gujarat is primarily because of the cow protection vigilante groups who thrashed a few Dalits for skinning some dead cows killed by lions in the PM’s home state. Such anti-Dalit atrocities have also been reported from Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, all BJP-ruled states.
This has alarmed the Dalits who see a larger political conspiracy against them at the hands of the BJP. The Modi government itself may not have fanned this anti-Dalit conflagration. In any case, no political party, which has huge stakes in the upcoming UP assembly polls, as the BJP does, would do this as a matter of policy.
But clearly the BJP has lost the plot simply because it has been unable to rein in the Frankenstein monster of cow protection vigilante groups. Ironically, Radha Mohan Singh, union minister in the Modi government, had recently flagged off a cow protection group with much fanfare. The actions of cow protection vigilante groups have now gone out of control of the Modi dispensation and the political upheaval in Gujarat with the change of chief minister is a live testimony to this fact.
The Gujarat developments will inevitably cast a long shadow over the Modi dispensation and would severely dent the BJP’s efforts to win in UP, a state where the party had won 71 out of 80 parliamentary seats on its steam a little over two years ago. This will definitely strengthen the opposition, particularly the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party in UP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat where AAP is going to contest the assembly elections.
Both BSP and AAP are going to be a thorn in the flesh of Modi’s BJP, the former in UP and the latter in Gujarat. It is not for nothing that AAP supreme leader Kejriwal has recently come up with an outlandish claim, perhaps a first in the Indian politics, that Modi may get him killed.
Things are definitely not looking good for Modi and the BJP. Ironically, the blame is on the politics of cow protection. Some holy cow this!
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