Thursday's Bharat Bandh call by upper caste outfits in parts of northern India led to some confusion in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its leadership didn't know how to react to the development. Upper caste outfits protested the shepherding of a Bill by the Narendra Modi government in Parliament that sought to overturn a Supreme Court judgment on the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “It (bandh call) has no meaning.
People have their feelings. In a democracy, everyone has the right to express themselves,” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, adding that his government would ensure the law was not misused. BJP Lok Sabha member Udit Raj slammed the protesters. Raj, a Dalit MP from Delhi, termed the bandh call unfortunate and a result of upper caste prejudice against Dalits.
Politics of silence
The Supreme Court judgment decriminalising Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had mainstream political parties in a fix. While the Congress social media team welcomed the judgment, no one from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted, nor did any senior minister of the government. In a nuanced tweet, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said it agreed with the Supreme Court that homosexuality was not a crime, but said same sex relationships and marriages were not “compatible with nature”. Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, also welcomed the verdict as did Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Kanimozhi.
There were, however, no statements from prominent north Indian parties, including Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United). The Trinamool Congress, generally quite active on social media, also kept quiet.
KCR’s ‘buffoon’ attack
Soon after recommending the dissolution of the state assembly, Telangana Rashtra Samiti Chief K Chandrashekar Rao on Thursday announced candidates for 105 seats and launched a blistering attack on the Congress, calling its President Rahul Gandhi the “biggest buffoon in this country”. The Telangana assembly has 119-seats, and the Congress was quick to point out that Rao didn't announce candidates for four of the five seats held by Bharatiya Janata Party legislators.
Earlier this year, Rao had proposed a ‘federal front’ minus the Congress. “Congress is Telangana's villain number one,” he said on Thursday, but spared the BJP any criticism. Congress sources said their party was resurgent in the state, and Rao's proximity to the BJP would hurt him in the upcoming polls.