Is Uttar Pradesh writing a new script in Indian politics? Is there major social turnover in the state? Is the policy of Hindutva in retreat? Is some sort of counter-revolution rearing its head against the politics of religion? Is the Mandal policy reaffirming itself in the state? Or due to the contradiction between Kamandal and Mandal politics, a new thesis emerges that could take Indian politics to another level? I know there will be many who will say it is too early to predict anything.
I also partially agree with this thought but if there are certain social allusions, in my opinion, these should be studied in detail. The UP elections are probably the most important assembly elections for the Sangh Parivar in recent years.
The state is not only the abode of Ram Janmabhoomi, where the Babri Masjid was demolished, but it is the original laboratory of Hindutva politics. It was in UP that the BJP formed the government after Advani’s rath yatra. It was here for the first time that the BJP experimented with the politics of social engineering.
The BJP was then known as the Brahman Bania Party. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a Brahmin, was the party’s most charismatic leader. But the BJP chose Kalyan Singh, a backward leader, as prime minister. Kalraj Mishra, a Brahmin, another great ruler of the state was relegated to second place. This was the time when political pundits assumed that Hindutva politics would not be a pan-Indian phenomenon. The general feeling was that the BJP could have won thanks to the Rath Yatra and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, but to imagine that it would replace the Congress system was unthinkable.
Admittedly, the Congress is weakened, but it remains able to form the government and initiate economic reforms. This theory gained further popularity when after the demolition of Babri, the BJP lost three out of four states in the assembly elections, including the UP. Since then, he was never able to secure a majority in the UP assembly until 2017. UP politics was dominated by simultaneous movements – the Dalit movement led by Kanshi Ramand Mayawati and the OBC headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. These two movements were in fact the two offshoots of the Mandal movement which fought for social justice and a fair distribution of power.
The Dalit movement has regularly flirted with Hindutva politics, but it has never allowed Hindutva to dominate either government policies or its politics. After Kalyan Singh deserted from the BJP, the party was no longer a major player in UP politics. Mandal’s politics were believed to have eclipsed Hindutva’s politics. But the 2014 legislative elections turned the tide. The emergence of Modi at the national level gave a big boost to Hindutva politics. In UP, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal unexpectedly won 73 seats out of a total of 80. And it got 42% of the vote.
This was a jump of 28% from the BJP’s 14% in the 2012 assembly elections. Those who thought it was a fluke were forced to swallow their words when the BJP repeated spectacular victories in 2017 and 2019. Several analysts propagated the theory that this was made possible because the BJP, through the RSS and other organizations affiliated with it, managed to win a large section of the OBC and Dalit communities. There were proud proclamations that the RSS had finally succeeded in uniting the great Hindu family; that it had broken the rigid barrier of millennial castes and erased their historical memory, the backward castes and the Dalits had transformed their caste consciousness into a meta-consciousness of Hindutva.
The RSS was seen as having accomplished the impossible. The OBC and Dalit identities had been merged into one Hindu identity. Even then, I challenged this thesis and said it was wrong to assume that changing electoral behavior automatically meant that they had forgotten their caste identity and erased the civilizational memory of oppression by hegemonic upper castes.
Much of the Mandal forces had voted for the BJP and Modi not because they had suddenly become Hindutvawadi, but because they were disillusioned with the Congress at the national level and the Samajwadi Party and BSP in the state. They were looking for an alternative and the Modi-led BJP came forward as an alternative, with a new development model. Modi promised to erase corruption from the public sphere; providing two crores of jobs every year was a very attractive offer farmers were told their incomes would be doubled by 2022 and India’s economy would be a five trillion dollar economy by 2025 hidden black money in foreign banks would be brought back to India and everyone would receive Rs 15 lakh in their account and India would emerge as a global power. But over the next few years, it all turned out to be a mirage.
Today the economy is in shambles, farmers are on the path to war, unemployment is at an all time high, prices are rising so high that petrol and diesel are at Rs 100 a liter and more and vegetable oil costs Rs 200 per litre. Corona was so mishandled that Hindus were forced to throw the bodies of their loved ones into the Ganges instead of cremating them, and the government was so arrogant that when someone complained about lack of oxygen, they were put behind bars.
If during the pandemic, 84% of the population experienced a substantial drop in income, then the income of billionaires has increased exponentially, for example that of the Adani group. I do not deny that the Hindutva ideology has not expanded its area of influence. Today, Hindutva is a powerful idea, and part of society indulges in minority bashing, but to assume that a majority of OBCs and Dalits have forgotten their past and become a weapon in the hands of Hindutva is not true.
Therefore, it is not surprising that in the UP, when a large part of the OBCs realized that in recent years the Hindutva had taken their support to form the government but had been reluctant to share the power with them, there has been a marked change among the backward castes. Powerful OBC leaders are leaving the BJP to join the Samajwadi party.
Behind the OBC’s lofty claims for empowerment lies the harsh reality that today in the UP Assembly, the BJP has 48.2% upper caste MPs, although the upper caste represents only 20% of the population.
At the same time, the number of OBC MPs fell from 27% to 25% compared to 2012. My argument is that if the Mandal forces were so enamored with the idea of Hindutva, then why this move” away” among the OBC leaders? and their social base? Is it because an ambitious new class has emerged among them that believes in a transactional relationship? The rise in literacy, the penetration of smartphones, the global connection with the greater mass through social media has created a new consciousness among them and they are no longer willing to play second fiddle to the upper caste. Hindutva might be a good proposition, but it is not attractive enough without a fair distribution of power for a permanent alliance with them.
The true reflection of this phenomenon may not be very visible in this election, but it can be said with great certainty that a counter-revolution by Mandal forces is in sight and what we are witnessing today is the interregnum between Hindutva politics and this counter-revolution.
(The writer is the author of Hindu Rashtra and publisher, SatyaHindi.com)
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Posted: Tuesday January 18th 2022, 08:39 IST