Divisive issues

Divisive issues

Congress is following an opportunistic policy.

As election fever rises in Uttar Pradesh it is divisive and unreal issues that dominate the campaign. While the major parties in the poll fray, like the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have vote banks based on caste or religion, a major aspirant, the Congress, has to create one.

After the party had long ago lost its traditional constituencies of upper castes, minorities and Dalits, it is in search of finding a foothold wherever it can. The minority quota issue that it has introduced into the electoral campaign is a desperate attempt to woo the Muslim electorate which has a large presence in many constituencies. The SP has till now been the major beneficiary of the support of the minority community. The Congress also has hoped to create a division in the Dalit support for the BSP by offering sub-quotas for the most backward sections among them.

The Central government, for practical purposes the Congress party,  announced a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for the minorities within the backward class quota last month, just in time to beat the announcement of the poll schedule and the operation of the model code of conduct. The Election Commission rightly ordered putting the decision on hold but the Union minister for law and minority affairs Salman Khurshid went a step further and announced an increase in quota for backward Muslims in state government jobs to 9 per cent. The commission has issued notice to Khurshid for breach of the model code of conduct. The validity of reservations on the basis of religion is still not legally settled. Khurshid’s explanation that the matter has to be settled by the Supreme Court gives the political game away. It means the announcement and not its implementation is what matters. The opportunistic electoral intent of the announcement cannot be better explained.

The Congress attempt to court the minorities has its impact on other parties. The SP which has a base among both the OBCs and the minorities is in a dilemma. The BJP might want to cash in on the resentment over reservations among the upper castes. All kinds of identity politics will be in full play and the real issues that should dominate elections, like development, the performance of governments, policies of parties and the personal merits and images of candidates will all take a back seat. Securing votes and seats by any means will become the norm.

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