Analyzing errors and implications for social justice

Prachi Dureja/Newslaundry

Prachi Dureja/NewsLaundry

New Delhi: The focus on social justice and reservation during the last two months of the Lok Sabha election campaign apparently led to the BJP’s reserved seat count being reduced to 55 from the previous 77 – a total of 131 constituencies are reserved for castes and scheduled tribes across the country. the country.

The BJP lost 19 SC seats it held in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Bihar, Punjab and West Bengal. Additionally, it lost 10 ST seats in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and West Bengal. The Congress captured 12 of these seats from the SC and seven of these seats from the ST from the BJP.

Other parties also contributed to the BJP’s losses in reserved seats: the Samajwadi Party (SP) won five SC seats in Uttar Pradesh; Trinamool Congress (TMC) won in Coochbehar; the Bharat Adivasi Party, a newcomer, got Banswara; Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) won in Dumka; and the Nationalist Congress Party-Sharad Pawar (NCP-SP) took Dindori.

Significant defeats for the BJP included Jharkhand’s Khunti, where Congress candidate Kali Charan Munda defeated former CM and Union tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda by nearly 1.5 lakh votes; Rajasthan’s Banswara, where the Bharat Adivasi Party won by nearly 2.5 lakh votes; and Chamarajanagar of Karnataka, where the BJP lost to the Congress by over 1.88 lakh votes.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP increased its tally from 71 to 77 reserved seats. The Congress, which had won just seven of those seats in 2019, increased its tally to 32 reserved constituencies in 2024, including the 19 it wrested from the BJP.

The BJP experienced its biggest losses in Uttar Pradesh, where it lost six SC and ST seats: one to the Congress and five to the Samajwadi Party. The SP, which had no SC seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2019, won seven this year, including two held by the BSP and Robertsganj, which was represented by Apna Dal-Soneylal.

The BSP also lost its only SC seat in Uttar Pradesh, Nagina, to Chandrashekhar Azad of the Azad Samaj Party, which it won by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes.

Of the 55 reserved seats won by the BJP this year, 25 were ST seats (up from 32 in 2019) and 30 were SC segments (up from 45 in 2019).

The BJP made gains in ST seats in West Bengal (Alipurduar), Chhattisgarh (Bastar) and Odisha (Nabarangpur and Keonjhar), and in SC seats in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur and Bhadrak, all previously held by the BJD. Also, the BJP retained all its SC and ST seats in Madhya Pradesh, with Union social justice minister Virendra Kumar winning the Tikamgarh seat by over 4 lakh votes.

The big shots that lost

The BJP’s partners in the NDA such as the Janata Dal (United), the Lok Janshakti Party and the Hindustani Awam Morcha emerged victorious in five of the six reserved seats in the state. Only one was won by Congress.

Among the NDA bigwigs who lost those seats were BJP ministers Arjun Munda, Kaushal Kishore, Nisith Pramanik and Bharati Pravin Pawar. Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal won, as did NDA allies Chirag Paswan and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi.

In Bihar’s Sasaram, which was earlier held by a BJP MP, Manoj Kumar of the Congress emerged victorious. Similarly, in Haryana’s Sirsa, Congress’s Kumari Selja defeated BJP’s Ashok Tanwar.

In Jharkhand, JMM’s Nalin Soren won the Dumka (ST) seat against the BJP, while in Khunti (ST), Arjun Munda lost to Congress’s Kali Charan Munda.

In Telangana, the ruling Congress won four (three SC and one ST) seats out of the total five. In Karnataka, the BJP lost the Gulbarga (SC) seat to the Congress; the state has five reserved seats: three for SCs and two for STs. In Maharashtra too, the Congress displaced BJP MPs in six of the nine reserved seats. In Rajasthan, the Congress wrested multiple seats in the SC and ST from the BJP.

In Uttar Pradesh, Union Minister Kaushal Kishore lost his Mohanlalganj (SC) seat to the SP. And in West Bengal, Union Minister Nisith Pramanik lost the Cooch Behar (SC) seat to the TMC.

400 Pairs Strategic Mistakes

Experts suggested that the BJP “400 pairs“The rhetoric could have led to such losses in reserved seats across the country. They opined that the BJP’s decline in reserved constituencies in the north and its fractured rule in reserved seats in the south was influenced by a combination of strategic mistakes, effective opposition messaging and unique socio-political dynamics of different regions of India.

“The INDIA block narrative that an overwhelming BJP government poses a threat to the Constitution resonated strongly with voters,” said Satish Prakash, a Dalit rights activist and physics professor at Meerut College.

“Concerns resonated in Dalit settlements about possible changes to the statute drawn up by Baba Saheb (BR Ambedkar) and the risks to the protections enshrined in them. These fears, fueled by statements from the BJP itself, led voters to be vigilant and determined to safeguard the Constitution. “This played an important role in the outcome of the election.”

He said allegations of a tacit alliance between the BSP and the BJP led many Dalits to shift their support to the opposition alliance, believing it was a more reliable defender of their interests. “As a result, many voters distanced themselves from the BSP, traditionally a communal bastion, feeling that it was no longer capable of effectively challenging the BJP. For the SCs and STs, reservation is not just a policy: it is a survival as it paved the way for their political, economic, social and educational advancement. Therefore, protecting it is sacred to them.”

Prakash criticized both the Congress-led INDIA alliance and the BJP, stating that both parties have historically tried to deprive Dalits and tribals of their constitutional rights. He pointed out that the Congress’s previous policies under Prime Minister Narsimha Rao promoted privatization, which reduced spaces for Dalits in employment and education, as reservation policies do not apply in the private sector. He alleged that the SP is equally anti-Dalit, citing incidents during Akhilesh Yadav’s tenure opposing the reservation bill and reversing pro-Dalit decisions taken by previous governments.

“The Mayawati government’s decision to rename Lucknow’s King George College as Sahuji Maharaj Medical was withdrawn by the SP government in the state. The Manyawar Kanshi Ram Medical College in Saharanpur was changed to the Shaikh-ul-Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan Medical College during the Akhilesh regime. One lakh Dalit officers in the state were demoted by retrospectively implementing a Supreme Court order,” he alleged.

When asked about Mayawati’s silence on various issues that concern people, he said, “Dalits are principled, socialist, rational and argumentative. They do not indulge in political actions that could potentially harm other sectors of society. SP leaders provoked UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during the protests against the contentious CAA and the proposed NRC, but who bore the brunt? “It was the Muslims, who faced brutal police repression and gunshots.”

Professor Badri Narayan of Jawaharlal Nehru University said “the key to reserved constituencies lies in the hands of the OBCs (other backward castes).” He said the SP-Congress alliance in UP won the majority of seats as the majority of OBCs voted in its favour.

Meanwhile, Sushil Pandey, professor at the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Central University in Lucknow and author of Caste and politics in democracyhighlighted voter dissatisfaction with the BJP’s selection of candidates and the opposition’s strong messages on social justice.

Senior journalist Hrishikesh Bahadur Desai of The Hindu He echoed Prakash’s views and added that influential groups in various states can influence votes in favor of their preferred candidates. He said Jains in Rajasthan and Gujarat, Gounders in Tamil Nadu, Lingayats in Karnataka, Marathas in Maharashtra and Reddys in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are smaller numbers but have the power to influence other communities.

“In the caste system, the disadvantaged communities always want to be seen alongside the privileged communities, as those who are at the bottom and aim to reach the middle and those who are in the middle want to rise,” he said.

Desai also noted that the BJP’s influence in south India is limited as voting is largely influenced by culture rather than caste. “Dravidians cannot be defeated by Hindutva,” she asserted.

“The situation of Dalits and tribals in the south is not as bad as in north India. The state has 101 scheduled castes, but only six communities are beneficiaries of reservation. Likewise, there are 52 ST communities, but only one of them has benefited from the quota. Dalits here do not want confrontational politics because they have to live in the same society. They adapt to the situation,” he stated.

Vithal Das Pyage, a retired college principal from Karnataka, said Dalits in south India, except Karnataka, have not experienced the BJP government and how it treats scheduled castes in north India. “The SCs here have not suffered as much directly compared to the Muslims. There are several Dalit castes, such as the Lumbanis, in the region who are not untouchable. Most of them are rich and subscribe to the ideology of the Saffron Party. They have also been given their due representation.”

Odisha-based journalist Akshaya Mishra said that the BJP’s best performance in the state is, in fact, “a defeat to the BJD (Biju Janata Dal), and not a victory for the saffron party.” “Despite welfare schemes and infrastructure development, the BJD lost miserably because its government was run by bureaucrats who were not liked by voters. The party’s dependence on an outsider, VK Pandian, also contributed significantly to the loss.”

As part of a special series for newslaundry, He mooknayak had previously reported on the election campaign in several reserved constituencies, such as , , , and the rise and fall of .

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