Days before Jewar in Gautam Buddh Nagar district of western Uttar Pradesh goes to polls on February 10, the state’s deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma has made the most casteist and divisive remark. He has claimed that the “Brahmin” lifestyle was a “superior way of living a life”.
Sharma was speaking at a poll campaign for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Dhirendra Singh in Jewar in Gautam Buddh Nagar, on Sunday and reportedly hit out at Opposition parties for being “casteist”. He claimed that he has been often asked about his views on Brahminism and the party’s position on casteism to which he replied “BJP wants ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. Neither Brahmin, nor Gujjar or Jats. Every caste has its significance and that’s why we have a bouquet of all castes here in support (of the BJP).”
Sharma said he was proud of his own caste. “When I was linked to Brahminism, I said yes, I am a Brahmin and I am proud of it. I do not see it as any disrespect,” he said, claiming that “a Brahmin’s work is ‘sarve bhavantu sukhinah’, (Translation: Feeling happy in others’ happiness.)” He added to his claims of Brahmin ‘pride’ as it were, and said he was a teacher by profession, and that in earlier times, “Only teachers were called Brahmins as they worked for the welfare of people and considered as gods across castes out of respect.”
He then added, “Brahmin is not a caste, a superior way of living life is called Brahmin. Whether teaching or (in the field of) education, or whatever the work, he’s not in conflict with any caste. From birth to death, it is these Brahmins who work for good luck.” According to news reports he gave the credit to this definition of Brahmins to “the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’.”
Bizarrely Sharma raised “caste” which he had just tried to dismiss when he attacked the Opposition parties saying, “BJP works for the backward classes, Jats, Gujjars, Thakurs, Vaishya and everyone. We have ministers, MLAs, MLCs across castes. We have not discriminated among people like other parties do.” He then claimed that he had interacted with the Muslim community in places like Aligarh and Lucknow and that “the BJP is getting support from across communities.”
Invoking caste in different ways is yet another sign that the political undercurrents are changing rapidly and unpredictably in Uttar Pradesh. As analysed earlier by SabrangIndia, stakes are high for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is in power in not just the state, but also at the centre – the impact of the Assembly election could be felt in the 2024 general elections. The BJP is clearly worried.
The spate of high-profile resignations from the BJP government and party, has left the hardliners in the BJP-RSS and Sangh Parivar rather disturbed and shaky. Top ministers hailing from Other Backward Classes (OBC) have resigned from the cabinet, including heavyweight Swami Prasad Maurya. Along with them several MLAs too have chosen to quit. Almost all of them have joined the Samajwadi Party (SP).
Western UP has reiterated yet again that it will vote unanimously against the BJP this time, especially the farmers who are upset with the BJP’s non-action with respect to promises made with respect to farm reforms. The farmers are also very angry because they have not been paid crores reportedly overdue for the sugarcane sold to the sugar factories in the region, and because of the betrayal of the Modi government on the promise of Minimum Support Price (MSP).
“Punish anti-farmer BJP during state elections,” is the appeal sent by farmers’ umbrella body Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM). “We have decided that “punish BJP” will remain the thrust of SKM’s further initiatives. We will prepare a letter to be distributed till the district-level along with village-level or mohallah-level meetings to urge citizens not to vote for the BJP in this election,” SKM leader Hannan Mollah said during a recent press conference in New Delhi.
Leaders of SKM noted that the central government backtracked on its written assurances regarding an MSP committee, withdrawal of cases against farmers, compensation and many other fronts. Similarly, the matter concerning the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre on October 3, 2021 has remained an emotional question for farmers – as has Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s continued position in the Union Cabinet. Farmers continue to demand Mishra’s suspension for his role in the incident wherein four farmers and a local journalist were run over by his son Ashish Mishra.
The SKM released a pamphlet endorsed by 57 farmer organisations that said, “What did the Yogi-government that promised to end ‘goondagardi’ do about this? It saved the accused.” According to SKM leader Rakesh Tikait this document will be distributed to the residents in UP and UK states. He said that UP sugarcane farmers have been waiting since 2017 for the government to complete procurement. Similarly, potato farmers have been suffering due to failed sales too.