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The conflict within - An Editorail - The Times of India

Editorial ()
2 July 1996

This is yet another example of intellectual bankruptcy of
The Times of India. Everything has to be evaluated in
caste or religious terms.

Title : The Conflict Within
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Times of India
Date : July 2, 1996

The conflict between the forward and backward castes
within the Bharatiya Janata Party, highlighted during
the Lok Sabha campaign by the BJP's angry young woman,
Uma Bharati, has come into the open both in Gujarat and
Uttar Pradesh where the party is gearing up for assembly
elections. In dismissing its Gujarat state party chief,
Mr. Kashiram Rana, the BJP national leadership chose to
ignore the fact that Mr Rana's clout derives from the
fact that he has been able to extend the party's sup-
port base among the backward castes and tribals, win-
ning these groups over from the Congress party. While
the BJP will have to extend its support base among the
backward and scheduled castes to regain power. In remov-
ing Mr Rana from his party post the BJP leadership may
have sought to use the disciplinarian tactics of the
RSS but it remains to be seen if the rapidly growing
party still lends itself to such toughness, consider-
ing the growing clout of the constituency that Mr Rana
represents. While political expediency on election-eve
may have encouraged Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee to work for
a Compromise between warring factions in the party last
October, the party's upper caste bosses have now struck
back as if to signal that they will not be subject to
the blackmail of 'mandalised' caste politics.

The decision to ask the former chief minister, Mr
Keshubhai Patel, a representative of the forward castes
in the state, to take charge of party affairs in Guja-
rat and the appointment of Mr Vaijubhai Vala, a politi-
cal non-entity, as the new state BJP chief, are be-
lieved to signal accommodation of the hardliners' view,
articulated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS,
to 'purify' the party's ranks of 'alien' cultural in-
fluences that have permeated the party of late. The
change of guard came about after a relentless campaign
led by the Gujarat VHP leader, Mr Pravin Togadia,
against the 'Khajurillya' culture of such backward
caste leaders as Mr Shankersingh Waghela. The
traditional BJP leadership has yet to live down the ig-
nominy of the so-called 'hostage' crisis in the party
when Mr Waghela held several MLAs captive in a Khajura-
ho hotel in October and sought to bring down the Patel
ministry. Indeed, the VHP crusade proved strong enough
to tilt the electoral balance against most of the 'Kha-
juriya' candidates in the Lok Sabha polls and this cost
Mr Waghela his own seat. Whatever the individual merits
of rival leaders within the state parties, the problem
in Gujarat as well as in Uttar Pradesh has an important
caste dimension which the BJP leadership has to come
to terms with. While upper-caste leaders like Mr Vaj-
payee have read the writing on the wall and wish to
accommodate the aspirations of the numerically dominant
backward castes, the more conservative upper caste lead-
ership in the party is not willing to yield ground. It
is significant that Mr Rana and Mr Waghela, while criti-
cising RSS-VHP interference in party affairs, have
launched caste-based regional political outfits like
the Mahagujarat Asmita Manch and the Mahagujarat Kisan
Union, a breakaway group of the BJP's Bharatiya Ki-
san Union.

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