Caste Issue emerges as critical factor amongst Indian voters

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As the snap GE2017 campaign reaches the final week of campaigning, concern about the law on caste discrimination has gained traction in several constituencies. Operation Dharmic Vote aims to galvanise opinion and votes in favour of candidates who sign up against the caste law. Campaign coordinator Mr Mukesh Naker says they are in a position to help those parliamentary candidates retain, regain, or swing seats.

The government’s recent consultation on the caste law makes important concessions. There is no evidence of caste discrimination, says the consultation document, and the term caste is impossible to define. These should have been fatal to the caste provision in the Equality Act as well as the intervening case law, where the courts have sped ahead to create a legal precedent. The Anti Caste Legislation Committee (ACLC), a broad community-based coalition has been saying that the Government’s consultation is devoid of purpose and parliament should proceed to repeal both the legislation and case law. The ACLC has warned of the law’s potential to create conflict within the community, encourage of spurious claims, and foster attacks on the community’s religious and associational freedoms.

The focused campaign by Operation Dharmic Vote should gain greater speed in the final week of voting. Already encouraging advances have been made. Bob Blackman (Con), defending Harrow East, promised to lend support to doing away with both branches of the capricious law. Mr Blackman says: “Having studied the Anti Caste Legislation Committee’s (ACLC) briefing papers on the potential impacts on individuals, businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and their assertion that case law could end up with adverse consequences, if re-elected, I would seek the support of the government and fellow MP’s to repeal both the caste clause in the legislation and Parliament to overturn any adverse judgements in case law.”

In a remarkable turn of events, an unprecedented number of other candidates have come out to support Mr Blackman’s statement: Hannah David (Con) who aims to dislodge Gareth Thomas (Lab) in Harrow West; Matthew Offord (Con) who is defending in his Hendon seat; newcomer Ameet Jogia (Con) fighting for Brent North against Barry Gardiner (Lab); Mike Freer defending his seat in Finchley & Golders Green (Con); and Paul Uppal (Con) fighting to regain the Wolverhampton South West seat.

Hannah David, who has experience as a solicitor, planning consultant and councillor, said: “I stand with the community to call for a repeal of the caste clause in the legislation thus removing the provision. Further, I would strongly advocate that the repeal takes effect immediately. If elected I will also support the efforts of my colleague Bob Blackman to seek support for Parliament to overturn any adverse judgements in case law.”

Whether any LibDem candidates see it fit to counter their party’s manifesto pledge to “Outlaw caste discrimination” remains to be seen. In so pledging, that party has ignored the lack of evidence, the impossibility of implementation, and the havoc that would be caused for British communities. Labour candidates, whose party has been solidly behind the legislation, have so far shown little solidarity with the community to repeal the legislation and case law. There has been much lip service, fobbing off the electorate with excuses, and blaming the community, which never asked for the law in the first place.

Operation Dharmic Vote’s aim to steer votes towards those candidates committing against the caste law could make all the difference in those seats where the community has become conscious of the law’s arbitrary effects. It is precisely that segment of the electorate the Operation Dharmic Vote campaign hopes to sway. Mr Naker says: “The caste law issue is currently the most important. The community is gaining confidence by understanding its electoral potential and how to use it. Knowing they cannot be ignored will help place the Dharmic voter in a more important position now and in future.”

In Leicester, local Hindu and Jain communities are disappointed that political parties only pay lip service to their aspirations but habitually take their votes for granted. Mr Naker says that imposing candidates, adopting patronising attitudes, using divisive community politics, and not taking account of constituency demography in Leicester has reached such proportions that Operation Dharmic Vote will be urging the community to vote for Sujata Barot, independent candidate for Leicester East. The likely support she will gain will be a wake up call for the political parties.

Bob Blackman, Chair of the Hindu APPG, seeking re-election in Harrow East

Hannah David seeking election in Harrow West

I welcome the opportunity of confirming my view on caste legislation. Having studied the Anti Caste Legislation Committee’s (ACLC) briefing papers on the potential impacts on individuals, businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and having listened to community concerns, I am fully aware of the perceived impacts of the legislation, and resultant case law on this community. I stand with the community to call for a repeal of the caste clause in the legislation thus removing the provision. Further, I would strongly advocate that the repeal takes effect immediately. If elected I will also support the efforts of my colleague Bob Blackman to seek support for Parliament to overturn any adverse judgements in case law.

Paul Uppal with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Express & Star Editor Keith Harrison seeking to win back the Wolverhampton South West Constituency

Ameet Jogia – A rising Star, standing in Brent North

Brent North has been Labour for the last 20 years. During the campaign over the last few weeks, it is evident that people want change. Residents feel Labour have become stagnant in Brent North.

Matthew Offord, seeking re-election in Hendon

I am an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Hindus, have been a vegetarian for the last 34 years, and campaign on animal welfare issues and the environment as a Member of the Environmental Audit Select Committee in Parliament.

Mike Freer, seeking re-election in Finchley and Golders Green Constituency.

I have an active and vibrant Indian community and I have seen no evidence of a problem. In all my time in political life I have been active in improving equality and removing barriers and existing equalities legislation can handle problems if they arise.

Rahoul Bhansali, Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Brent Central.

I am proud of my British Indian heritage and the contribution that the community has made to British life.  I have closely followed the caste legislation and its impacts on the Hindu community. Having studied the Anti Caste Legislation Committee’s (ACLC) briefing papers on the potential impacts on individuals, businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and their assertion that case law could end up with adverse consequences, if elected as the MP for Brent Central, I would seek the support of the government and fellow MP’s to repeal both the caste clause in the legislation and Parliament to overturn any adverse judgements in case law.

Sujata Barot, Independent Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Leicester East.

Henry Smith, Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley.

Operation Dharmic Vote is a long-term project to engage diverse Dharmic communities. Predicting political outcomes is complex. So we approach this endeavour as a long term project, being open to learning as our engagement deepens.

Operation Dharmic Vote sets out to address the lack of policy & political influence faced by the Dharmic community organisations and members. Key reasons for this are

Confusion between policy & politics. Few organisations have capacity to analyse or articulate policy impacts on themselves or their members. They also confuse policy with party politics. As charitable or voluntary organisations, they need to be neutral in party political terms. But on policy matters they must have the capacity to make informed impact assessments and communicate these to their members to act upon.

Lack of voter power –  the Dharmic community largely fails to use its democratic rights to vote strategically or in sufficient numbers.

Blind loyalty to a party. Traditionally Dharmic communities have voted for the Labour Party. This is changing. ODV’s political campaigns will help this process further. At each election, each political party and each candidate needs to respect and address Dharmic communities’ issues for our vote.

Contacts for further information

Mukesh Naker

Mobile +44 77 1313 7425 Email: dsp4today@gmail.com

Dr Prakash Shah

Mobile +44 77 1114 1777 Email: aryalegal@yahoo.co.in

 

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