They want to make us slaves: Om Prakash Rajbhar on BJP’s treatment of backward castes

01 August, 2021

In the second week of June, the union minister Amit Shah met two of the BJP’s alliance partners in Uttar Pradesh. The leaders—Anupriya Patel from the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Sanjay Nishad from the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal, or the NISHAD party—were members of the Other Backward Classes category. The same week, Om Prakash Rajbhar, an OBC leader who heads the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, tweeted, “BJP is a sinking boat. Whoever wants to get on its chariot is free to do so. But I will not do it.” Rajbhar was earlier a BJP ally and served as a minister in the Adityanath-led state government till 2019. Amid speculation about the alliances that would contest the 2022 elections, Rajbhar’s statement received significant media attention. A few days later, Rajbhar said that the BJP national president JP Nadda had called him, but he refused to talk.

In an interview earlier this year, Rajbhar told Sunil Kashyap, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, the BJP had assured him that it would subcategorise the OBCs of Uttar Pradesh into three and accordingly split the 27-percent reservation given to them. A report was made by an OBC Social Justice Committee for this in 2018, but Rajbhar said the BJP refused to implement it. After having a falling out with the BJP, Rajbhar led an effort to form the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, an electoral front of eight regional parties led by members of backward communities. A translated, edited and condensed version of the interview is produced below:

Sunil Kashyap: Why do you think the BJP is not implementing the Social Justice Committee report?
Om Prakash Rajbhar: In 2017, before I entered the alliance, I spoke to Amit Shah, when he was the national president of the BJP. He told me, “Help us form the government, and within six months we will implement this.” On the questions of education, unemployment, health—he agreed with me on all issues. Then, after four months, I started contacting him. When we spoke, he said it will be done. As soon as six months passed, I started creating pressure. Shah said, “Let’s meet at the chief minister’s residence, then we will talk.” Me and Yogiji [the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, commonly known as Yogi Adityanath] spoke about this in two or four discussions. At the second meeting, I became stubborn.

Then, a committee was constituted under the leadership of Raghavendra Kumar, a retired judge. I was the minister of the backward classes welfare department, so I got that report prepared in six months. [Seventy-nine castes were divided into] three categories: backward, more backward and most backward classes. The first category got seven percent reservation, the second got nine percent and the third got eleven percent. Seven percent was assigned to the category that gets more benefit than the rest of the population. The ones who comparatively get less benefit were assigned nine percent. Those who don’t get any benefit were assigned eleven percent.