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Free rations to caste census: BJP’s strategic clarity and ambiguity


It’s not just the annual festive season, it is also that point in a half-decadal electoral cycle when political strategies are parsed closely. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared an intent to extend by five years the free-food scheme brought in by the government as covid relief, rather than stretch it further bit by bit, as has been the case. 

It makes sense to give this food-security measure a long lease, given the vital role it plays in keeping hunger at bay, and will strengthen the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) pro-poor pitch. No less noteworthy is the ruling party’s strategic ambiguity over a caste census. The BJP isn’t against one, but believes consultations are needed and such a decision cannot be taken without careful thought. This signals a recalibration of its stance based on weighing the risk of losing support among Other Backward Class voters (by rejecting such a survey) versus that of a loss in upper-caste votes if a count is widely seen as a prelude to quota increases. 

As poll campaigns roll on, with the Congress pressing for a caste census and policy of proportionate reservation, which way the BJP moves on this issue will be under close watch. 

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Updated: 06 Nov 2023, 08:00 AM IST

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.