UP Upset OBC Fallout: What Caste Was Emperor Ashoka From?

According to BJP calculations, this year will see the 2,327th birthday of Emperor Ashoka. A good time like any, it seems, to discover his “caste”.

With defections fixing uttar pradesh caste cauldron boiling again before the Assembly Polls, the focus is on the Mauryan king who ruled most of what is now called India between 268 BCE and 232 BCE. On both sides of the battlefield are rallying parties from neighboring Bihar, the state that claims the king as its own.

The BJP, which has an eye for icons covered in the cobwebs of history, was one of the first to recognize the political value of the Great Ashoka. In 2015, the Bihar BJP celebrated its 2320th birthday and the Center Party government issued a postage stamp on it.

Soon after, others claimed it as their own, especially the OBC Kushwaha community, as well as backward class leaders from all parties – the BJP, JD(U) and RJD. A senior Bihar leader from a socialist background who does not want to be named said Ashoka, the scion of the dynasty founded by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya, was “a great face and OBC voice of the subordinate”.

Visit of Emperor Ashoka to the stupa of Ramagrama. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has refrained from attaching a caste to these icons, but he has named a number of buildings and institutions after them, including the Chandragupta Management Center and the Samrat Ashok Convention. Hall in Patna. Panchayati Raj Minister Samrat Choudhary, who belongs to the BJP, points to the number of panchayat-level buildings named after Ashoka.

The final battle to appropriate Ashoka began when Sahitya Akademi Award Winner, Former IAS Officer and BJP Worker, Daya Prakash Sinha, said in an interview with Navbharat Times: “While researching Samrat Ashok, I was very surprised at several similarities between him and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Both of them had committed many sins in their early days and had more later resorted to excessive religiosity to hide their sins so that people would digress towards religion and their sins would be ignored.Sinha received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his play Samrat Ashoka.

He also commented on Ashoka’s appearance, saying that several Buddhist works called him “very ugly”.

Three Kushwaha leaders, from three different parties – BJP minister Panchayati Raj Choudhary, JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha and RJD national spokesman Subodh Mehta – were the first to jump to the defense of the emperor. The current Maurya community is made up of Kushwahas.

Soon most of Bihar’s top leaders rallied behind him – from Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP, former CM MP and Rajya Sabha MP, to Sanjay Jaiswal, BJP State Chairman and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi.

the The BJP then filed an FIR against Sinha “for hurting people’s feelings,” while BJP JD(U) ally Manjhi and the RJD demanded his awards be withdrawn.

Pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty. (Wikimedia Commons)

The BJP insisted that Sinha had nothing to do with the party.

Jaiswal said, “We are surprised that Sinha describes himself as the national head of the BJP’s cultural cell. In fact, he’s not even a senior member of our party. In a social media blog, the BJP Head of State said Ashoka had played “a great role as a unifier” and gave a message of peace to the world after the Kalinga war.

Historians record Ashoka as having been ruthless early in his reign until he launched a campaign against the Kalinga Kingdom. The carnage of this battle was such that it motivated him to renounce war and, over time, to embrace Buddhism and the concept of dhamma. He then played a big role in spreading Buddhism in the region.

In the present that concerns everyone, the Kushwahas, who make up 8% of Bihar’s population, are a vital part of the JD(U) OBC base. The BJP and RJD also have a good number of Kushwaha leaders.

However, there is a more immediate reason, as one JD(U) leader points out. “With the BJP losing some OBC leaders to the Samajwadi party (especially one of the biggest, Swami Prasad Maurya) in Uttar Pradesh, it does not want to be part of an issue that could further confront the Dalits or OBCs”.