Odisha will see state elections in the coming months. It is one of the poorest states in India and its caste configuration is similar to other states, but the population of the Scheduled Castes is higher and can be politically influential.
Like all other states, the Ambedkarite movement is gaining grounds in Odisha and it has its own dynamic trajectory which is moving upward in terms of ideological spread. Odisha also saw conversions to Buddhism.
However, like every other state, the political power of the Scheduled Castes is shattered and they are almost disenfranchised and co-opted to serve the interests of the parties led by the dominant castes. BJP had not gained any hold, except in the last local elections it surged ahead.
In the absence of analytical studies which will support this trend, one can only speculate as to why the BJP is gaining grounds in Odisha.
In the past, the Scheduled Castes in Odisha began to rally around the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP); the process was halted for a long time and there is the political vacuum for the Scheduled Castes.
The state of Odisha also saw rising atrocities on the Dalits and the infamous Kandhamal proved that the Hindutva forces will go to extreme ends to polarise the people as the Hindus by creating other. In the case of Odisha, that other was Christians.
It is also clear that the purpose of holding the BJP convention in Odisha was to gain traction for the Hindutva party in Odisha. The BJP is coming out with various ways to increase its base and one of the ways they are employing is to attract the OBCs. The OBCs have been a divided bloc and it is various difficult to unite OBCs on all India level, but some left out OBCs can be easily lured into the political trap.
The BJP is not going after the “Dominant OBCs” like Yadavs in UP, but are out to reach out to Kushwahas, and other OBC castes. If one can add these groups together, they can become a formidable political bloc. The tone for the consolidation of the OBCs was set by the BSP, but it is the BJP that is using this consolidation for its political purposes. They are also not only out to woo the OBCs in the so-called Hindu fold, but also OBCs in the Muslims. They are the majority in Islamic population. Modi is even claiming that their rights have been usurped by the upper caste Muslims. It is interesting that Modi is arguing against the Upper caste Muslims, but not raising any voice against the “Hindu” upper castes. This is interesting in terms of its strategy in Odisha.
The BJP will try to woo “non-dominant” OBCs in Odisha is clear.
They would also try to woo “Non-Ganda” Dalits, and they will also try to poach on politicians from other parties. The BJP’s strategy to co-opt politicians from other parties has been successful. We will have to wait and watch till the outcomes of the Odisha elections are out. At the moment, it is clear that the BJP/RSS is trying very hard to colour all the states in India in its hue.
Author – Mangesh Dahiwale