SP using women’s quota law to bolster caste survey, ‘PDA’ agenda ahead of LS polls
It is demanding a ‘quota within the quota’ for the ‘PDA’ women from backwards, Dalits and minority communities, especially Muslims, as per their share in the population
The Samajwadi Party (SP) is mixing other backward class (OBC) and caste survey issues with the women’s quota law to corner the ruling party. The Bihar caste survey report has further buoyed the SP’s strategy on the issue.
On one hand, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is celebrating its victory over first getting the women’s reservation bill passed by both the houses of Parliament and then it becoming a law after the President’s assent, the SP has started using it to bolster its ‘Pichada, Dalits, Alpsankhyak (PDA)’ and caste survey agenda and corner the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls on the other.
The principal opposition party in Uttar Pradesh, the SP had in the past emphatically demanded inclusion of “social justice” within the “gender justice”. Now, it is demanding a ‘quota within the quota’ for the ‘PDA’ women from backwards, Dalits and minority communities, especially Muslims, as per their share in the population and gradually turning it into a poll plank for the next year’s general election.
Having traditional Muslim-Yadav support, the party has been engaged in expanding the base by attracting non-Yadav other backward classes (OBCs) and Dalits. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav coined the ‘PDA’ term a few months ago.
While Muslim-Yadav account for nearly 32% population of the state, the ‘PDA’ population is close to 80%. For decades, the SP has been a staunch opponent of the women’s reservation bill.
Attacking the opposition in Varanasi some days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Those who opposed the women’s reservation bill for decades are now trembling...because of the unity of mothers and sisters”.
“We were never opposed to the bill. We want social justice within gender justice. And we will continue demanding reservations for the PDA women. Our demand for caste census is to ascertain the numerical strength of various castes so that benefits could be given according to their share of the population,” said Juhie Singh, national president, of SP Rashtriya Mahila Sabha.
“We will tell and sensitise the electorate about our demands and tell them that when we come to power, we will make necessary amendments to the women’s reservation and will get a caste census done,” she added.
The SP chief began the PDA spadework soon after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when after SP’s failed alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), he started inducting Dalit leaders from the BSP and began talking about ‘we are Ambedkarvaadi and Lohiavaadi’ i.e. followers of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar and socialist icon Ram Manohar Lohia. And in 2022, Akhilesh began poaching OBC leaders from other parties.
He, however, could do little harm to the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2022 assembly polls also, it could not dislodge it from power in Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, the attempt to add Dalits and OBC support to the Muslim-Yadav base helped the SP jump from 47 seats in the 2017 assembly polls in the state to 111 in the 2022 polls. The vote share of the SP rose from 21% to 31% between the two assembly polls. For the 2024 LS polls and beyond, Akhilesh has the same formula which he has christened ‘PDA’.
“The injustice that the BJP has been meting out to the PDA is reflected in the women’s reservation bill as well. Only women from the privileged section of the society will get the benefit, while those from the backward and oppressed classes will remain as they are,” said Rajpal Kashyap, state president, of SP backward classes cell.
“So now when we launch the second phase of our caste census demand campaign in October, we will demand PDA reservation within the women’s reservation. And that no reservation benefits could properly and duly be given to those deserve without a caste census that would ascertain the numerical strengthen of various castes,” Kashyap added.
The Samajwadi Party’s ongoing ‘Desh Bachao, Desh Banao’ bicycle rally, which has passed through various districts of the state after it was launched on August 9, has already included women’s reservation bill in its campaign against the BJP for the 2024 LS polls.
“Without caste census, women’s reservation is not possible”, says Abhishek Yadav, national president, SP Lohia Vahini, during the cycle yatra daily. Akhilesh Yadav and his wife and Mainpuri MP Dimple Yadav have been saying for a long that social justice is not possible in gender justice without reservation within the reservation for PDA women and that caste census is necessary for social justice.
In both 2010 and 2012, SP founder the late Mulayam Singh Yadav had vehemently opposed the idea in Parliament and public rallies even earning the tag of ‘misogynist’ for his comments. In his address in Parliament in 2010, Mulayam stated, “The women’s reservation bill, if passed in its current form, would provoke young men to whistle in Parliament.”
In 2012, during a public meeting in a rural area in Barabanki, he had remarked, “The bill, if enacted as it is, would only benefit the rich and urban women. Our impoverished and rural women are not attractive.” The women’s reservation bill provides for a 33% quota for women in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.