‘Bulldozer Baba, Bulldozer Mama, bulldozer justice’: How the modest machine has become the buzzword in Indian politics

Nine bulldozers rolled into Jahangirpuri on Wednesday morning, tearing down several structures close to a mosque as part of an anti-encroac...

Nine bulldozers rolled into Jahangirpuri on Wednesday morning, tearing down several structures close to a mosque as part of an anti-encroachment drive by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled civic body.

Chaos and mayhem ensued as residents saw their homes being torn down and their source of livelihoods being razed. It was only after the Supreme Court intervened twice that the drive was paused.

Politics quickly broke out over the demolition drive with the Opposition accusing the BJP of ‘bulldozing’ democracy, while the latter held its ground, stating that ‘bulldozer justice’ was the right way to move ahead from the communal violence that had earlier broken out in the northwest area of Delhi.

At one point during the drive, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI{M}) leader Brinda Karat was seen blocking a bulldozer waving the copy of a Supreme Court order. Speaking to NDTV about the incident, she said, “We saw the bulldozers just smashing structures. They just bulldozed everything selectively. We had to stop it. After we stopped it, a senior police official came. I spoke to him and showed him the court order. Then he said yes, yes, we will stop it now.”

Wednesday’s incidents weren’t the first time that the nation saw ‘bulldozer politics’ being played out. In the recent months, the bulldozer has suddenly become the buzz word in politics. We trace this development.

Rise of ‘bulldozer baba’ in UP

Ironically, the beginning of bulldozer politics began with a jibe.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath earned the nickname of ‘Bulldozer Baba’ in Uttar Pradesh for his extensive use of the machinery to free up over 67,000 acres of government land from the clutches of land mafia in the state.

During the Assembly elections, his rival, Samajawadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, used his nickname to attack the chief minister. He had then said, “He (Yogi Adityanath) changed the name of everything. Till now, we were calling him ‘Baba Chief Minister’, but today one English newspaper called him ‘Baba Bulldozer’. I have not kept this name, this name was kept by a reputable English newspaper.”

Unfazed by Yadav’s comments, Yogi then used the bulldozer jibe as a campaigning tool, saying it was a sign of how his government had cracked down on the mafia and was a symbol of development in the state.

Also read: How bulldozer becomes the most iconic weapon against land mafia’s illegal encroachments in Uttar Pradesh

At one of his election campaigns, Yogi had said: “We have a special machine which we are using for building expressways and highways. At the same time, we are using it to crush the mafia who exploited people to build their properties.”

Unsurprisingly, when the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, workers and party members used bulldozers to celebrate.

Shivraj’s transformation to ‘Bulldozer Mama’

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was quick to realise the popularity of Yogi and took a leaf out of his Uttar Pradesh’s counterpart’s playbook.

He passed a very stringent law to recover damages during acts of rioting. It has a provision of recovering the double value of damaged properties within a fixed time.

On 22 March, when a youth died in Raisen district after a clash between two communities, the chief minister ordered demolition of the accused persons’ houses, News18 reported.

Also read: Nine states, 15 days: India is witnessing a spate of communal violence

The bulldozers came out once again when clashes erupted in Khargone district of the state on the occasion of Ram Navami. The rioting in Khargone saw the destruction of more than 50 houses and properties. The chief minister then used bulldozers to demolish 16 houses and 29 shops of alleged stone-pelters.

Incidentally, some of the houses demolished by the government were built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana with a letter of gratitude to the CM posted on their walls.

His action has now earned Shivraj Singh Chouhan the nickname of ‘Bulldozer Mama’.

The anti-encroachment drive by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) in the violence-hit Jahangirpuri area, in New Delhi. PTI

Bulldozer politics roll into Delhi

The Wednesday anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri quickly set off a political fight in the Capital.

The Aam Aadmi Party alleged that the ‘order had been issued’ to harass a community in the name of encroachments, while BJP alleged AAP was giving religious colour to the drive.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha alleged BJP, “promoted riots, violence and hooliganism across India. If you want to end riots in this country forever, the BJP headquarters should be bulldozed immediately.”

Chadha dared the BJP to function on ‘bulldozer justice’ and demolish the houses of BJP leaders who “took bribes to let encroachments come up.”

AAP leader Amanatullah Khan alleged that the NDMC had scheduled the anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri as Shah and the BJP want to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of Delhi.

In a video message on Twitter, the Okhla MLA said the demolition of houses belonging to members of “a particular community” only to “harass” them during the holy month of Ramzan on the pretext of an anti-encroachment drive will further spoil the atmosphere in the area.

He appealed to the Union home minister and BJP leaders to refrain from resorting to such a move.

The BJP, on the other hand, refuted the claims, saying this was a legal exercise which had nothing to do with religion.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the politics being played by opposition parties over the issue is saddening and accused them of bringing a “religious angle” into a host of issues since 2014 to foment instability to attack the Centre.

“As far as the BJP government is concerned, our only mantra is sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas, sabka prayas. Every project and policy of the (Narendra) Modi government has been an inclusive exercise that has catered to every section of the society, without any kind of distinction along the lines of caste, creed and religion,” Patra said.

The Congress, too, waded into the row on Wednesday, with Rahul Gandhi attacking the government over the use of bulldozers in violence-hit areas of Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, and uring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to switch off “bulldozers of hate” and switch on power plants.

Other leaders from the Congress too condemned yesterday’s incident with former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala saying that India doesn’t need Bulldozer politics.

“It is the need of the hour for all democrats in the country to unite and defeat such moves. India doesn’t need bulldozer politics, it needs a politics that can accept the Constitution, the rule of law and the democracy,” he was quoted as saying to news agency ANI.

With inputs from agencies

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