Madhya Pradesh assembly polls: Anti-quota outfit may tilt scales in close contests

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Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Updated: November 8, 2018 2:15:12 am

At a SAPAKS rally in Madhya Pradesh.

The high-voltage protests against the government’s reservation policy in jobs and promotion, and amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the months leading to the assembly elections has led to the formation of a platform that could impact political outcomes in certain boroughs of Madhya Pradesh, even as the Congress and the BJP have claimed that the agitation would fizzle out by November 28.

The Samanya, Picchada, Alpasankyak Varg Adhikari Karmachari Sanstha, or the SAPAKS Party — an organisation born out of the protests against the government’s reservation policy and amendment to the Atrocities Act — was officially registered by the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday and many are claiming that it could wreck enough damage in constituencies with significant Brahmins, Rajputs and other non-reserved category voters.

Karni Sena leader Raghu Parmar said, “This election will be fought completely on caste lines and its (SAPAKS’) impact will be felt in rural areas.’’ The Karni Sena had organised a massive road show in Ujjain last month against the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and to seek reservation on an economic basis.

“The movement is no longer limited to government employees because thousands of unemployed youths joined it to vent their anger…The SAPAKS will influence poll outcome in constituencies where Brahmins, Rajputs and other non-reserved category voters are in significant numbers,” Parmar said.

While not ruling out the new party, Congress leader Paras Saklecha said though SAPAKS candidates may not get many votes, they would “create an atmosphere against the BJP government and thereby help the cause of the Congress”.

The BJP, meanwhile, said it was certain that the agitation would lose steam as the election approached.

The SAPAKS Party, that has claimed to contest on all the 230 seats, already announcing candidates on 72, has also been written off by many others as nothing, but an “alternative to NOTA’’.

“When established parties, like the BJP and the Congress, find it difficult to get 230 candidates, a new party is not expected to fare better…The SAPAKS Party will be another alternative to NOTA or Independent (candidates), but nothing more than that,” political observer Girija Shankar said. He claimed that the movement would not influence the poll outcome except in cases where the margin of victory is very narrow.

Social activist Sachin Jain also claimed that the SAPAKS Party or movement was born out of a limited cause and lacked penetration to the grassroots or cadres and organisational muscle that is enjoyed by mainstream political parties. He also criticised the party for not raising its voice against the dwindling government jobs.

SAPAKS Party president Hiralal Trivedi, a former IAS officer, admitted that no big player from the mainstream parties have joined the movement or sought ticket so far, but said the party hopes to make a significant impact in the November 28 elections.

“We want to strike fear in the minds of politicians. The BJP and the Congress can’t take us for granted while appeasing reserved communities. I have always voted for the BJP, but now I have the third option,’’ Chandrashekhar Tiwari of the Sanskriti Bachao Manch said while referring to the SAPAKS Party. He claimed the protesters had NOTA in mind initially but changed their opinion after realising that it won’t help showcase their might.

Former MLA Laxman Tiwari, who had tried to stitch together an anti-reservation movement in 1994, however, remained sceptical of the SAPAKS’ future as it has no following outside government employees. “They will only be ahead when postal ballots sent by government employees are counted,’’ he quipped.

Meanwhile, a section of government employees, both serving and retired, claimed that the SAPAKS movement had the backing of the RSS and BJP.

The SAPAKS Party, which had applied for registration with the EC in late August, was officially registered on November 6. The party had briefly toyed with the idea of tying up with Sampoorna Samaj Party — a registered party with similar objectives — in the hope that its candidate will contest on the symbol of a ring. After a section of the party members opposed it, claiming that it was fraught with the possibility of the SAPAKS losing its identity, the party has now sought a “conch” symbol from the poll commission.

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