Leaders’ posters with caste names: Congress scored a terrible self-goal in Bihar
Patna, Sept 27: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, September 27, lashed out at the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi after posters of him and other party leaders in Bihar were seen with their caste names mentioned on their respective photos.
The saffron party found a big opportunity to make an issue out of it and accused the Congress leadership of promoting "caste politics" in the state of the Hindi belt.
In the posters, Rahul and All-India Congress Committee in-charge for the state, Shaktisinh Gohil, are being thanked by their party for setting up a new state Congress committee and setting an example of "social harmony". While Rahul and Bihar Congress chief Madan Mohan Jha were identified as "Brahmin samuday" (community), Gohil was tagged as one representing the "Rajput" community. There are also other leaders from "Dalit", "Pichhra", "Bhumihaar" communities found on the posters.
The Congress was silent over the posters while the BJP's state spokesperson Nikhil Anand asked the Election Commission (EC) to take note of what he called "brazen attempt at playing caste card" ahead of the next year's Lok Sabha election. The Congress won only two out of 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar in the 2014 general elections. Though it did better in the 2015 state polls and found itself in the grand alliance government featuring Lalu Prasad's RJD and Nitish Kumar's JD(U), the sudden U-turn by Chief Minister Kumar who dumped the alliance in favour of joining the BJP saw Rahul Gandhi's party out in the cold once again.
Anand accused the Congress of resorting to gimmicks out of desperation and termed it a "new low" in the history of the Grand Old Party. He said what the Congress did was something that Mahatma Gandhi had wanted to abolish after India attained independence. He said Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the nation for his party's act and wanted the EC to take action on this.
Congress's self-goal in Bihar
The Congress's act in Bihar certainly did it a disservice. When the saffron brigade is trying to get rid of the tag of a party of the upper castes and has shown in the last few elections that it is also capable of mobilising the lower rungs of the society through Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pro-development appeal, the Congress's move to an entirely opposite direction is not something that suits well with the new India. Especially when Rahul is trying to strike a chord with the global audience by engaging with people overseas, such a show by his own party which gets back to the negative identity politics is suicidal. The Congress leadership should have strongly disapproved of the decision to put up such posters in Bihar, especially when the Hindi belt is heading to three Assembly polls in a few months and the country - the general elections - in less than a year.
Preaching about Rahul's Brahmin identity was not wise
Moreover, the fact that the party is still led by Brahmins and not by any other lower group will also highlight the party's social pyramid structure, making Modi a direct beneficiary. The BJP doesn't play too much over Modi's OBC identity but now with the Congress preaching Rahul's Brahmin identity, even that could see the BJP mobilising more social votes to its favour.
Social harmony can be shown in more positive ways
If the Congress wanted to show "social harmony", it could have done so through highlighting other parameters the Congress leadership has worked on. But by showcasing the caste backgrounds of its members in the state committee, the GoP sent across a wrong message to the electorate of the people as well as the country. The Congress is currently going through a lean phase and actions like these will make its electoral chances look even bleak.