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Mainstream, VOL LX No 5, New Delhi, January 22, 2022

RSS is in a bind over the reasons for Dalits shiting loyalty | Arun Srivastava

Friday 21 January 2022

by Arun Srivastava

In the seventies when the Aya ram and Gaya ram syndrome emerged in a volatile manner, apprehensions were expressed that it would ruin the political character of the country and would severely damage the political culture and institution.

Even before it could inflict major damage the syndrome was checked but its immoral impact on the body political and the polity of the country suffered a severe denigration with the politicians no longer willing to abide by and adhere to the ethics of political morality. It has lost its relevance in the public domain.

The recent desertion of the BJP ministers and legislators have once again this syndrome. But it has no rationale. In the seventies, the ministers and legislators had resorted to this to gain political power and wealth. But this time it is related to the identity of the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs.

Social scientists are busy trying to analyse the reasons for the recent large-scale desertion of senior BJP ministers and legislators and subsequently going back to the SP. While some look at it as the resurgence of the old syndrome, a large section of experts and scholars nevertheless strongly feel that it symbolises the protest of the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs against the hegemonistic politics of RSS and BJP.

In fact, the scholar and social scientists owing allegiance to the RSS and BJP have launched a crusade against this for obvious reasons. It is part of their well-planned conspiracy to malign the Dalit leaders and discredit them in the eyes of the Dalits and non_yadav OBCs. Even today the RSS and its ground-level pracharaks have been quite active to assimilate them with the upper caste Hindus and describe them as the main component of the Hindu population. But it is not the case. The RSS which of late has been trying to espouse the line of Savarkar has not been willing to accord them the same respect that a Hindu gets. They still treat the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs as subservient.

To describe the desertion as aya ram and gaya ram syndrome is purely a simplistic evaluation and any such interpretation would be an act of naivette. Politicians usually do not dump a winning party. No doubt the farmers’ movement has shaken the trust level of the BJP, but still the cadres and bhakts are sure that charishma of Modi would salvage the situation and they would win.

Obviously, in such a backdrop, the decision of the Dalit andOBC leaders to quit has more political relevance than apparently meets the eye. Since 2014 during the last ten years of Modi rule, the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs were made to be subservient to the RSS and BJP. RSS came out with the façade of presenting them as the major section of the Hindus. Though the RSS and BJP continued with their rhetoric, in reality, they ill-treated the Dalits and OBCs. A number of massacres took place, the Dalits were lynched and their womenfolk were violated and even burnt after perpetrating the heinous crime, the BJP leadership, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his home minister, and other senior leaders maintained a passive. The most deplorable was the flaccid attitude of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. He has been continuously claiming that these people are part of the greater Hindu society, but he never condemned and castigated the Sangh mercenaries and vigilantes who were involved in the grisly incidents.

These incidents had completely alienated the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs. They restarted the move to unite and come under one banner. In the initial months, Samajwadi Party was not in the reckoning. In fact the Dalits were not too keen to align with SP. But the success of the farmer’s movement changed the entire scenario. It can not be denied that the re-emergence of Dalits as the potent force is the gift of the farmers’ movement.

It is a known fact the Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs have antagonistic relations with SP which is perceived as the party of the Yadav’s., the intermediate caste. Nevertheless, the urgency to break the political hegemony of the rightist and Hindutva forces made them join hands with the SP. It is worth mentioning that in 2017 and 2019 these forces had joined BJP and it was due to their support the BJP won overwhelming the UP assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The BJP had secured about 42 percent of votes in the 2017 Assembly elections and nearly 50 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh. Now, support among the Dalit and OBC voters is waning due to acute economic distress and unemployment in east Uttar Pradesh.

It would be wrong to construe that the BJP would have dared to deny tickets to Maurya and Chauhan. Their exit suggests they are responding to the mood of their voters. During the last fortnight, till January 13, 2022, 19 BJP members joined the SP-led front. According to data collected by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), between 2016 and 2020, 182 MLAs from across the country joined the BJP while only 18 left the party. But now the reverse trend has begun. It implies that everything is not good with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

Some time back CM Yogi had said that the election is between 80 percent and 20 percent (Muslims make up 20 percent of the electorate). He had included the vast population of Dalits and non-yadav OBCs in 80 percent Hindu. Now with the Dalits and non-yadav OBC rebelling against the BJP the situation has turned against it.

Nevertheless an insight into the nature and character of the shift of allegiance would unravel that it has got a wider political implication and would blunt the Hindutva parquet of the saffron outfit. Such a large number of shifts underlines that it was conjured not only by monetary lust, but it also resorted to protecting the identity of the Dalits, and non-yadav OBCs.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Narendra Modi had scribbled the Hindutva script for the assembly election. The extent of their reliance on the strategy could be gauged from the simple fact that Modi paid two obeisance visit to Kashi Vishwanath. His visit cost around Rs 1500 crores. Prasad was distributed in 100 villages surrounding Kashi. Modi made all kinds of attempts to polarise the Hindu voters and turn Hindutva into a talking point across the state. But if the mood of the people is any indicator, it can safely be said that it has failed to have a major impact on the electorates. Modi’s Hindutva could not blur the economic compulsions of the people of Purvanchal, the most underdeveloped region of the state.

This single incident of senior dalit leaders deserting the BJP has turned redundant the politics of Kamandal. The politics of Mandal has started dictating the political discourse and progression. It has altered the political narrative. This shifting of loyalty is entirely different to the earlier aya ram-gaya ram. Earlier the politicians resorted to these tactics to turn the mood of the people, but this time the politicians have ventured after listen to the voice of dalit protest at the lowest level. With the announcement of the date of election the voice of protest had become more [prominent and audible.

Coinciding with this two significant developmenets some dalit scholars and actvists launched a campaign to redefine the teaching and sayings of Baba sahib and second, a new kind of initiative was tossed to find out the caste of Emporer Ashok. The Dalit scholars were forced to evaluate Emperor Ashok only after the BJP launched the move to identify him as a Hindu icon. True enough the move to establish the caste of Ashok changed the entire political contour of the UP and Bihar politics. Shiting of the focus on the Mauryan king who ruled entire India between 268 BCE and 232 BCE was in a way was a big challenge to the RSS theory that India has been a Hindu nation.

No doubt the BJP first tried to set the caste cauldron in UP on the boil ahead of the Assembly polls, and use the caste value of Emperor Ashok, but soon it realised that it was going out of its hands. It has motivated the Dalits to question the attitude of the RSS and BJP towards them. On the other side of the battlefield is the state of Bihar, the state had the privilege of claiming Emperor as its own. Never in the political history of India the Dalits have been pitted against the Hindus in this manner. For them usurping the legacy of Emperor Ashok would be the biggest gain.

Close on the heels of the BJP move the OBC Kushwaha community, as well as backward class leaders claimed Ashok as their own; A keen competition has ensued between the BJP and other Dalit and OBC parties to stake claim to Ashok’s caste identity. It is claimed that Ashoka, the descendant of the dynasty founded by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya, was “a grand OBC face and voice of the subaltern”. The political institution is virtually vertically split on this matter.

The Sangh Parivar has, of late, unleashed its radical Hindutva outfits to target the minorities in a brazen manner and polarise the Hindu votes. For instance, the hate-mongers masquerading as Hindu priests have launched the ‘safayee abhiyan (ethnic cleansing)’ and ‘genocide’ of the minorities at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad last month. Even the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad put up posters along the ghats of the River Ganga at Varansasi asking the non-Hindus to keep out from the shrines along Mother Ganga. These developments created doubts about the BJP’s intention among the lower OBCs and Dalits.

Though RSS claims to protect the Dalits and treat them as equals. But it is a lie The fact is during the seven year rule of Modi India has witnessed a horrendous rise in the crime against the Dalits. India is witnessing a worrying decline in the social status of the Dalits, coupled with an economic decline. This makes the marginalised groups even more vulnerable. Crimes against Dalits and Adivasis have increased by 27.3% and 20.3%, respectively in 2018.] It contradicts the claim of the BJP that its government and politics are pro-Hindu and pro-poor. The words of the first law minister BR Ambedkar seem to be coming true. “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country,” he had written.

While the socioeconomic scenario for Dalit and other marginalised groups has deteriorated, the government has done little to change things. Affirmative action through reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes existed before Modi came to power, but he is systematically doing away with it. He has even abolished the scheme of scholarship for the Dalits. the BJP is diluting the very basis of reservations. Instead of taking historical deprivation as the benchmark for affirmative action, the government wants economic criterion to determine eligibility for reservations.

What we are witnessing is a systematic marginalisation of Dalits in the socioeconomic realm even as they are co-opted for electoral purposes. The BJP has gained a grasp over many SC-Adivasi-OBC constituencies through its “social engineering” and other mechanisms. Of the 84 Lok Sabha seats reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates, in 2014, the BJP won 40 seats, according to a Centre for the Study of Developing Societies study. But unfortunately, it has been deprived of any gain. In UP the BJP expelled a significant number of Dalit leaders s they raised their voice of protest against the functioning of the party and Yogi government.

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