SAPAKS keeps BJP, Congress on tenterhooks in MP

SAPAKS keeps BJP, Congress on tenterhooks in MP

The anger over the reservation policies has found expression in universities and in urban clusters in the Gwalior-Chambal region and has emerged as a major election issue.

With a third option in form of an upper caste party emerging in the hotly contested Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, the two main contenders, the BJP and the Congress, are worried about their vote share. 

“We supported the BJP in 2013 and now we are suffering,” a 38-year-old tuition teacher Neeraj Singh Rathore said.

Rathore had actively campaigned for the BJP in the 2013 Assembly elections, which gave Shivraj Singh Chouhan a third term as the state's chief minister, as well as in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which brought Narendra Modi to power at the Centre.

However, a June 2016 statement by Chouhan ‘koi mai ka lal aarakshan khatam nahi kar sakta’ (no one can dare to scrap SC/ST reservations) drew the ire of the upper castes.

His remarks were made after the Madhya Pradesh government moved the Supreme Court challenging the Jabalpur High Court's decision to quash quotas in promotions.

This move of the state government gave birth to an upper caste movement— SAPAKS, the acronym for Saamanya Picchada Alpsankhyank Kalyan Samaj Sanstha— which has spread like wild fire across the state.

The furore over the Supreme Court quashing certain provisions of the Atrocities Act in its March 20 judgement and the Modi government’s swift moves to negate it through a law in Parliament further strengthened the movement.

Rathore, a Rajput, felt betrayed by these steps taken by the BJP and has now bid farewell to the party to join SAPAKS.

Brahmins and Rajputs form about 15% of Madhya Pradesh’s voter base, while OBCs— who were also affected by the Atrocities Act verdict— form a massive 50% of the electorate.

The anger over the reservation policies has found expression in universities and in urban clusters in the Gwalior-Chambal region and has emerged as a major election issue.

"It is time to have a rethink on reservations. Now they have reached equal levels with those in the general category,” Karnika Tripathi, a 19-year-old law student at the Jiwaji University said.

However, not every one agrees.

Priyanka Suman, a 21-year-old journalism student of the same university, strongly bats in favour of quotas.

“Reservation has to be there, otherwise the general category will not allow SC/ST to prosper,” Priyanka told DH recalling the discrimination she had to face in a college in the city.

SAPAKS, which started off in 2016 as an upper caste movement has now morphed into a political outfit and fielded as many as 120 candidates in the November 28 state Assembly elections.

"We are supporting another 40 independent candidates and hope to emerge as a third force in the state,” Hiralal Trivedi, founder of SAPAKS Party told DH.

Both the Congress and the BJP are watching the newly formed outfit with trepidation.

In Gwalior-Chambal region, SAPAKS has queered the pitch for both the BJP and the Congress by fielding candidates in 26 of the 32 Assembly segments.

Some have withdrawn due to local pressure, Trivedi admitted but at the same time rejected suggestions that the outfit was a front of the Congress or the BJP.

A political analyst, however, dismissed SAPAKS as a fringe player in state politics which will not have a major impact on the Assembly elections.

“SAPAKS has base among the youth of mainly the BJP voters who are frustrated with the party. But what they will do actually at the time of voting nobody knows,” he said on condition of anonymity as he has been drafted in the conduct of elections in the state.

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