With social engineering in mind, BJP celebrates birth anniversary of Asoka the Great

The function was organised at a state of the art convention centre by BJP which is seen as pro-upper caste but willing to push its boundaries.

Published: 08th April 2022 11:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th April 2022 11:46 PM   |  A+A-

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BJP Flags (Photo | PTI)


PATNA: The BJP in Bihar on Friday held a lavish celebration here to mark the birth anniversary of Emperor Asoka, the legendary 3rd century BC ruler whom contemporary political lexicon has converted into a cultural icon for the powerful OBC group.

The function was organised at a state of the art convention centre by the saffron party which is seen as pro-upper caste but willing to push its boundaries.

The move is in line with the BJP's strategy, implemented with much success in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, to win over non-Yadav OBCs who feel empowered in the wake of the Mandal churn but do not have a political platform to give expression to their aspirations.

Koeris, along with Kurmis, the latter being the caste to which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar belongs, form a combination known as “Luv Kush” in the state's political idiom and given the fading popularity of the leader, now on the wrong side of 70, the BJP, his ally for three decades, showed ample signs that it was willing to lend this social segment a voice.

Kumar's former deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, often accused by hardliners in the BJP of having been a docile aide to his ex-boss, made the party line amply clear in his speech wherein he invoked the Ramayana legend to blend Hindutva with Mandal politics.

"Who were Luv and Kush? They were born to Lord Rama. And they can never go away from Lord Rama," said Modi, evoking applause from the audience, which included state BJP workers besides dignitaries from elsewhere like Union minister Bhupendra Yadav and Uttar Pradesh Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, who, notably, is the tallest Koeri/Kushwaha leader in the party.

Interestingly, barely a couple of months ago, alleged denigration of Asoka had become a stick to be beaten with for the BJP which was accused of patronage to Daya Prakash Sinha, a UP-based playwright who has won the Sahitya Akademi Award.

JD(U) parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha had led the charge, which finally caused the state BJP to distance itself from Sinha to the extent that the party's Bihar unit chief Sanjay Jaiswal lodged an FIR accusing the dramatist of disparaging the legendary king of Magadha and falsely claiming to be associated with the saffron party.

The sabre-rattling between the two old allies had given rise to speculations of a rift, which ended only after words of appreciation came for Kumar by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a TV interview.

Among the few historical figures whose names have been suffixed with the epithet "the Great” by historians, Asoka was the grandson of Maurya dynasty founder Chandragupta Maurya, who was born in a family of poor shepherds but captured the mighty kingdom of Magadha by dint of his valour and sagely advice from his mentor Chanakya.

The legend woven around the life of Asoka is a fascinating tale of personal transformation.

From a ruthless prince who grabbed the throne after fratricide, he went on to become a king notorious for bloodlust until remorse set in following widespread death and destruction in the Kalinga War.

Asoka, who thereafter embraced Buddhism, is credited with having spread the faith to far-off corners of the world through emissaries, and his pluralism has been extolled by scholars no less than Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

The national emblem of India is also adopted from the image of four lions standing back to back atop the Asoka pillar.


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