The BJP’s new social bloc

‘The BJP’s new social bloc’, an analysis by CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies), based on the electoral outcome and the findings of a nation–wide post-election survey (Lok Sabha polls ’99) published by the fortnightly magazine ‘Frontline’ offers  interesting insights into the political compulsions behind the BJP’s decision to woo the Muslims, dalits, adivasis. The study clearly shows that the BJP simply cannot hope to grow beyond the plateau on which it presently finds itself unless it succeeds in befriending Muslims and Dalits. 

It is evident from the tables reproduced here (Courtesy: Frontline and CDS) that:

  • The BJP has certainly come a long way from is identity as a Bania-Brahmin party. But the fact remains that as one goes down the caste ladder, electoral support for the BJP declines consistently and dramatically. The post–poll, all–India survey conducted by the CSDS showed that as against 46 per cent of the upper caste Hindus who voted for the BJP, the party could get only 19 per cent votes of the adivasi and a much lower 12 per cent of the Dalit votes. In sharp contrast to these figures, 49 per cent adivasis and 40 per cent dalits voted for the Congress. Even the BJP’s allies in the NDA coalition could manage only 12 per cent of the total adivasi and 10 per cent of the Dalit votes.

The CSDS analysis observes: “Although both these figures (percentage votes of Dalits and adivasis for the BJP) are higher this time (1999 polls) compared to the 1998 elections, it is clear that these groups are not the primary constituents of the new social bloc”. 

  • A mere 6 per cent of the ‘Upper (Caste) Muslims’ (Ashrafs) voted for the BJP, while the ‘Lower (Caste) Muslim’ votes for the BJP were almost negligible (2 per cent of the total). This contrasts even more sharply with Muslim support for the Congress — 59 per cent ‘Upper Muslim’ and 58 per cent ‘Lower Muslim’. The alienation of the Christian community from the BJP, is equally evident from the figures. 

Considering that between them, Dalits, adivasis, Muslims and Christians, make up for around 37 per cent (well over one–third) of the total electorate, the BJP’s political compulsion in wooing them is evident. Equally well, the existing hardcore support of the BJP has come through its identification and association with the strident Hindutva pursued consistently by other segments of the sangh parivar — the parent RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and its allies such as the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Hindu Munnani in Tamil Nadu. 

In other words, the BJP is being pulled in two diametrically opposite directions — ideologically towards a strident Hindutva, and electorally towards centrism and an inclusive agenda. So far, the BJP has tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. But the limits of such realpolitik is becoming increasingly obvious. The saffron brotherhood is showing signs of growing disenchantment because of the BJP’s conciliatory gestures towards the minorities, while the minorities continue to be suspicious of the party because of its continued attachment to the saffron brotherhood. Is there a danger that the BJP might end up falling between two stools? 

  • The CSDS analysis also clearly shows that in the perception of the voters, the BJP remains a party of the rich. The poorer an upper caste voter is, the lower his preference for the BJP; the richer an adivasi or Dalit is, the greater his attraction to the BJP. Taken together, “both caste and class converge in the BJP’s support base”.

In short, despite its impressive growth, the BJP continues to be seen as a party of the  upper castes/upper classes. The new social bloc has helped elevate the BJP from its position of “majestic isolation” to the political high ground it presently occupies. But the existing arrangement, is, obviously, not good enough for the party that aspires to rule India on its own. The apparent disenchantment of the OBCs in the electorally critical Uttar Pradesh only compounds the situation. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, September 2000 Year 8  No. 62, Cover Story 3



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