India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks on (Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg)

Will BJP Win Back The Backward Caste Vote With Its Big Push For Social Justice?

The Bharatiya Janata Party will observe a ‘social justice fortnight’ from Aug. 15 to Aug. 30 as it looks to counter a perception that it works against the interests of backward communities.

That comes after the Parliament approved a bill seeking to grant constitutional status to the Other Backward Classes Commission and another to strengthen a law that protects Dalits against atrocities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government also plans to observe a ‘social justice week’ from Aug. 1-9 next year onwards.

Highlighting the importance of voters belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes, political commentator Amitabh Tiwari said these communities played a major role in electing the BJP in 2014. “One-fourth of the BJP’s seats come from the reserved category,” Tiwari said. “So, it wants to give a message that it's for the protection of the Dalit community’s rights. That’s why this renewed push.”

The Modi government faced criticism after violence against Dalits by cow vigilantes and the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing anticipatory bail and preliminary enquiry before registration of a case under the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. That was seen as a dilution of the law.

The BJP’s performance as far as empowering the SC and ST communities are concerned has been abysmal, according to Avatthi Ramaiah, professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. “Atrocities against the SC and ST communities have increased (after 2014),” Ramaiah said. “The crime rate against SCs has increased manifold and has been more brutal.”

While Tiwari said India needs to revisit its reservation policy and move towards demography-based system to benefit targeted people, Ramaiah argued that the nation first needs to get rid of the caste system.

Tiwari, however, said if the BJP tries to reach out to the minority communities in a bid to win the 2019 elections, it may face challenges to retain its upper-caste core voters.

Watch the full discussion here: