‘Mai Ka Laal’ Remark Haunts CM Chouhan During Karni Sena Protest
Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Image Courtesy: NDTV
Bhopal: The “Mai ka laal” remark is back to haunt Madhya Pradesh chief minister (CM) Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the election year. Facing the Rajput community’s flak for his 2016 reservation remark, the CM doesn’t want to upset the dominant caste ahead of the Assembly polls.
During a convention of SC/ST government employees on June 12, 2016, Chouhan had remarked, “Jab tak mai hoon, koi mai ka laal reservation khatam nahi kar sakta. (As long as I am here, no one can end the reservation).” His comment upset the general category voters (especially, Rajputs) who oppose caste-based reservation.
There was a strong belief within the BJP that Chouhan’s statement was one of the biggest reasons for the party’s poll debacle in the Gwalior-Chambal region in 2018. Since then, he has been trying to reconcile his relations with the Rajputs. Attempts made by the state government to bring back Rajput voters to the BJP fold have remained unsuccessful so far, according to poll data.
Last week, when a section of the Karni Sena threatened to hold a Rajput Mahapanchayat in Bhopal on January 8, Chouhan not only hosted them at his residence but also agreed to their major demands. “The birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap will be declared a state holiday. Maharaja Chhatrasal was also born on the same day,” he told them.
Trying to mend relations with the community, he added, “Madhya Pradesh was the first state which banned the screening of Padmaavat when opposed. Besides, all the cases lodged [against protesters] during the protest will be withdrawn.” The BJP-backed right-wing Karni Sena had vociferously protested the screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed Padmavati and forced the makers to change its name to Padmaavat.
Chouhan also laid the foundation stone of a Padmavati memorial and announced the construction of a hostel for poor upper-class students and relaxation in examination fees for upper-class students like SCs/STs and others.
A day later, Rajput Mahapanchayat president Raghvendra Singh Tomar called off the protest. However, a section of Karni Sena under the banner of Karni Sena Parivar Sarva Samaj, led by one Jeevan Singh Sherpur (from Ratlam), launched a protest with a set of 21demands at Jamboree Maidan on the night of January 7.
The protesters demanded a law for the protection of interests of the general category and OBCs on the lines of the SC/ST Act, age relaxation in the recruitment of general category students, not increasing the retirement age of government employees, early recruitment for vacant posts, relaxation of criteria for the EWS quota and withdrawal of cases against Karni Sena members who participated in agitation against the movie and during the farmers’ agitation.
They also demanded the implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendations for farmers and GST exemption on agriculture equipment.
One of the most interesting demands was to declare the cow as the ‘national mother’ and government procurement of cow dung and urine like the Chhattisgarh government’s Godhan Nyay Yojana.
On January 9, the agitators blocked the busy Mahatma Gandhi Square (Piplani) and took a public oath not to vote for the BJP in the upcoming elections. “We are protesting to bring change. If I die during the hunger strike, take an oath not to vote for the BJP because it acts as a dictator,” said Jeevan Singh, who, along with four others, started an indefinite hunger strike.
Protestors were seen carrying pamphlets with the slogan “Dekho Mama (as Chouhan is popularly called), Kaun Aaye. Mai ka Laal (See, Mama who has arrived. Son of mother)”. Videos of people scraping off BJP stickers from their vehicles went viral.
As the news of the agitation spread, protests broke out in other districts as well with Rajputs burning Chouhan’s effigies in Khandwa, Bhind and Ujjain.
When Mahedpur Police Station house officer Dinesh Bhojak allegedly used mild force against the protestors in Ujjain causing injuries, the Rajput community protested, and he was removed within hours.
करणी सेना कार्यकर्ताओं पर लाठी चार्ज करने वाले थानेदार को भाजपा सरकार ने हटाया।
कल उज्जैन के महेदपुरा में मुख्यमंत्री का पुतला दहन कर नारेबाज़ी कर रहे कारनी सेना के कार्यकर्ताओं थानेदार दिनेश भोजक ने लाठी चार्ज कर दी थी जिसमें 2 लोग घायल हो गए थे। pic.twitter.com/Y8u4OzUH0d
— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) January 12, 2023
Reacting to the protest, Bhim Army and Azad Samaj Party, led by Chandra Shekhar Azad, announced a massive protest in support of reservation and the SC/ST Atrocities Act in Bhopal on February 12.
The state government, busy in organising the 17th NRI Meet and Global Investor Summit in Indore, immediately swung into action. When home minister Narottam Mishra and cooperatives minister Arvind Singh Bhadoria requested the protesters to end the protest, they demanded a written assurance for the fulfilment of their demands.
When asked about the protest, Mishra told the media that the protesters are “not outsiders but our own people”. “There are no differences between brothers. We will hold dialogue and request them to end the agitation. I am sure they will come to terms with us,” he said.
MP: भोपाल में पिछले 4 दिनों से चल रहे करणी सेना / राजपूतो के आंदोलन पर क्या बोले प्रदेश के गृह नरोत्तम मिश्रा !
SC/ST एक्ट में बदलाव, आर्थिक आधार पर आरक्षण जैसी 21 मांगों को लेकर पिछले 4 दिनों से जंबूरी मैदान में प्रर्दशनरत है करनी सेना।
BJP को वोट ना करने की कसम खा चुके हैं। pic.twitter.com/E7VtxQk6CS
— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) January 11, 2023
Meanwhile, a video showing some protesters allegedly from the Rajput community raising derogatory slogans against Chouhan went viral. Taking “suo moto cognisance”, the police lodged an FIR against 10-12 unidentified people but haven’t identified them so far.
"Taking suo moto cognisance, we have lodged an FIR under Sections 147 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code but haven’t arrested anyone as the accused are still unidentified,” Ajay Nayar, town inspector of Piplani Police station, told Newsclick.
The agitators called off the agitation only after the general administrative department (GAD) formed a committee to look into their demands on January 11 afternoon. The panel, comprising the additional chief secretary (GAD), principal secretary of the school education department and the social justice department, will submit a report within two months.
“We want a law to protect crops from stray animals, rebate on agriculture equipment, a recruitment commission to ensure timely recruitment for government jobs,” Shailendra Singh Kaluheda, the organising secretary of the protest, told Newsclick. “The state government has also assured to write to the Centre to recommend changes in the reservation police, the SC/ST Atrocities Act and the EWS.”
Chouhan’s 2016 comment caused an uproar among the general category voters when caste violence gripped Madhya Pradesh and other Hindi-speaking states in April 2018 after the Supreme Court ruled out arrest in cases related to the SC/ST Atrocities Act without inquiry. The apex court delivered the controversial verdict while hearing a case of misuse of the SC/ST Atrocities Act on March 20, 2018.
Fearing that the BJP government could scrap the SC/ST Act, Dalit outfits announced Bharat Bandh on April 2, 2018, to oppose the ruling. Clashes broke out in the Hindi Heartland, including in the Gwalior-Chambal region, which has a sizable population of Rajputs and Dalits. Six people, including five Dalits, were killed in the clashes, six months ahead of the Assembly polls.
Two years later, the apex court overturned its March 2018 judgement but Chouhan’s remark had already damaged the BJP, which lost considerable seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region ending its 15-year rule in the state.
“The Rajput voters of Gwalior-Chambal region who voted out the Chouhan government in November 2018 voted unanimously in support of Narendra Modi in the general elections six months later,” Devshree Mali, a senior Gwalior-based journalist told Newsclick. “But they again voted against the government in the 2020 by-polls and the 2022 urban and local body elections.
It is “apparent”, Mali added, that the “anger is against the Shivraj government, not BJP or Modi”
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