Uttar Pradesh will not have its famous caste rallies, which perpetuated the politics of caste identity and provided exceptional strength to parties like Mulayam Singh Yadav’s OBC-backed Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Dalit-supported Bahujan Samaj Party.
In a significant ruling delivered by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on Thursday, the judges banned the holding of caste-based political rallies in Uttar Pradesh with immediate effect. This is an obvious setback to the state’s two major regional parties, the SP and the BSP. The state’s two other major political players, the BJP and the Congress, usually avoid rallies targeted at specific castes.
This almost historic stay order comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court’s landmark order saying a public representative will stand disqualified as soon as he is convicted for two years or more.
“Caste-based political meetings and rallies are against constitutional norms,” said a division bench comprising justices Umanath Singh and Mahendra Dayal of the Lucknow bench while hearing a public interest litigation.
The petitioner had alleged that on July 7, the BSP held a “Brahmin maha sammelan” in Lucknow to garner votes for the upcoming general elections, which is totally against the Constitution. This is not the first that Mayawati targeted the Brahmins specifically. She had done so before she came to power in 2007, even attempted such caste-centric public meetings in the last elections of 2012 and had also organised Dalit rallies.
The court has also issued notices to the central and state governments, the Election Commission of India and four major political parties — BJP, Congress, BSP and SP – in the state, asking them to present their point of view. The next date of hearing is July 25.
The petition was filed by a local lawyer Motilal Yadav, who has prayed for ban on caste-based rallies on grounds that they are against the spirit of the Constitution which says all caste and communities are equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination on grounds of caste and religion.
The petitioner submitted that there had been a spurt of caste-based political rallies in the state. He said political parties were organising caste-based rallies in the name of various castes such as Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya.
Yadav submitted that while such events were damaging social unity and harmony, they were also vitiating the society. In his petition, Yadav said caste-based rallies created animosity between castes and promoted caste discrimination.
The election commission has already banned such caste and community-based rallies and events during the election process.
All major parties have welcomed the high court order. “I welcome the order. The court has done the right thing,” SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters in Delhi. When reminded about his own party organising a Brahmin sammelan, he said: “I never attend caste-based conventions and rallies.”
But senior SP leader Naresh Agarwal inserted a note of caution, saying: “The order is welcome but we will have to see that it does not take away the voice of those who have remained deprived of their due place in society even 65 years after independence, like Dalits and Muslims.”
Former UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi said it would be good for the nation’s polity in the long run. “The judgment is a welcome step because the regional parties are organising caste-based political rallies over the past few years. In fact, the regional parties are trying to unite the people on the basis of their castes and transforming them into their vote banks,” she told the media here, adding that the Congress never played caste politics.
UP BJP chief Laxmi Kant Bajpai said: “The poison of casteism is spreading in our society. This judgment would help bring about amity between castes. Political parties should consider a voter simply as a voter regardless of his or her caste.”