ET Analysis: Article 370, Savarkar aimed at wooing Jats and Marathas by BJP in assembly polls

The impressive LS victory and an opposition in disarray are grounds enough for the BJP to harp on its govt’s achievements in the past five years. But economic slump & high unemployment seem to have prompted BJP to go back to nationalism.

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NEW DELHI: There is a general belief that it is difficult to win elections on the strength of development and good governance for an incumbent party as caste and local sentiments overshadow these claims.

It is not surprising then that the BJP is playing up the nationalism card in Maharashtra and Haryana with prominence being given to Veer Savarkar and the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the party’s manifesto.

The promise in BJP’s Maharashtra manifesto that if the party wins another term, Veer Savarkar would be conferred the Bharat Ratna, took many by surprise. As per the rules, the prime minister recommends the name of the Bharat Ratna awardee to the President and this has nothing to do with a state government.


The impressive LS victory and an opposition in disarray are grounds enough for the BJP to harp on its governments’ achievements in the two states in the past five years. But economic slowdown and high unemployment seem to have prompted the party to go back to nationalism.

The BJP governments in Maharashtra and Haryana have faced job quota agitations by the Marathas and Jats respectively. Despite the steps taken by the two regimes to placate them, these two numerically dominant communities are divided on whether to support the BJP.

Marathas are closer to NCP leader Sharad Pawar and the Congress in Maharashtra. It is widely believed that Pawar had backed the Maratha reservation agitation. Similarly, in Haryana, the Jats are likely to back Bhupinder Singh Hooda in central Haryana and JJP (or INLD on some seats) in Sirsa, Fatehabad belt.
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To beat this challenge, it was natural for BJP to rake up the abrogation of Article 370 as this has resonance among the Marathas and Jats as both these castes send a sizable number of youth to the armed and para-military forces and even have regiments –– Maratha Light Infantry and Jat Regiment –– in their names.

Marathas, including Kunbi Marathas, constitute around 31% of Maharashtra voters. They are mainly concentrated in the Konkan, western Maharashtra and Marathwada regions. The Mahars –– another fighting class that belongs to the scheduled caste –– comprise another 10%. BJP is eyeing this crucial vote bank by raking up nationalism issues.

In Haryana, Jats make up around 27% of the vote bank. With INLD now a weak force due to a split in the party, BJP fears a majority of Jats may rally behind Congress under Hooda’s influence. A division in Jat votes between Congress and INLD would have helped BJP.

It’s no surprise that PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are raking up Article 370, with development rhetoric taking a back seat.
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