25 May, 2004
the NDA and the Congress-led alliances fought pitched battles in the
Gangetic belt, a shrill-yet sound-proof-undercurrent swept the minds
of the non-Brahman, non-Baniya voters. Neither the winners, losers,
nor the now-insolvent pollsters, had any idea of what was happening
inside that society. The largest slice of Delhi's population lives in
slums and unorganised settlements under the constant threat of the corporation's
During the past
five years, hundreds of slums have been destroyed, or re-located partially
due to the closure of industrial units. The just defeated Jagmohan's
so-called "Clean Delhi" drive was an additional menace. Most
of the domestic helps, plumbers and security guards of the housing complex
I live in know Jagmohan well. And so do hawkers, vegetable vendors,
taxi drivers and industrial workers. In their collective perception,
Jagmohan is a terminator threatening their very existence in Delhi.
Millions of Delhi's
slum dwellers are migrant labourers from the Gangetic belt. More often
than not they are Dalits and the so called "lower" Shudras.
After the industrial slowdown of Calcutta and the closure of Mumbai's
textile units, Delhi emerged as their next big hope for survival. These
labourers return to their homes in April-May every year to attend to
harvesting and the marriage season. The message they carried back home
this April was clear: "The BJP-led NDA is determined to banish
the poor from urban India as another mandate to the NDA would be self-destructive."
for over one-fourth of India's population. Since Independence, government
jobs and some facilities in education are the only two rights the community
has had any access to. But the privatisation of education threatens
to push Dalits out of education. The privatisation of state-owned enterprises
seeks to send them back to their pre-1950's misery. The former Disinvestment
Minister, Arun Shourie, of Worshipping False Gods infamy (a book lambasting
Dr BR Ambedkar penned by him), was the most hated and feared name among
educated Dalit circles. In almost every district of India, there would
be at least one Dalit journal, howsoever un-professionally produced,
unanimous in condemning the NDA's privatisation and disinvestment drives.
To the Shudras, this was seen as a ploy to make the Mandal reservations
Shinning" campaign was reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi's "21st
Century" slogan of the 1989 general elections when it became a
matter of public ridicule. Cartoonists and columnists tore it to shreds.
Now it is now commonly acknowledged that the communication revolution
owes largely to Rajiv's initiatives than any wonder by the NDA. Rajiv
Gandhi, despite his remarkable vision, had terribly overlooked the need
for "social packaging" of his slogan. Though he was unleashing
the reindustrialisation of India, he failed to capture the imagination
of the beneficiaries of his projects. Likewise, the "India Shining"
slogan too turned into a crude joke on the dispossessed.
When the NDA's
leaders reminded people about how India has turned into a "food
exporting nation"-a truth no doubt-the anguished landless, who
toil hard for a few kg of wheat under the harsh summer sun, decided
to give a fitting reply to the wordsmiths who coined this grotesque
line. The NDA failed miserably with the social packaging of its "India
must mean a concrete policy bouquet for the disadvantaged groups. The
NDA failed to realise this. The Vajpayee regime's greatest achievement
was to introduce "consumerism," a phenomenon without which
no economy can re-industrialise itself. But this will be appreciated
only a decade from now. It is only in an industrialised and urbanised
India that caste prejudices will recede. The Jan Sangh, the forbear
of the BJP, was known as a Baniya party till the 1960s, but acquired
a Baniya-Brahman image during the 1970s to 1990s. In the 1990s, it acquired
a hard-Hindutva identity.
During the early
days of the NDA, it transformed almost into a duplicate of the Congress
when various groups began joining it. But, the trinity of Jag Mohan-Arun
Shourie-Pramod Mahajan which master-minded the "India Shinning"
slogan, re-earned the Baniya-Brahman identity for the BJP. Most non-Brahman-non-Baniya
castes reached a quick and self-assured conclusion: The NDA is determined
to transfer the State's assets to industrial and trading houses, in
other words, to Baniyas. And the institutions of the State, after being
privatised, will go to the Brahmans.
The message reached
most non-Brahman-non-Baniya homes faster than the speed of sound beyond
the Arawali, Vidhyas, the belt which spreads through Rajasthan, Madhya
Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, touching Orissa, and which have neither a history
of great labour migration to Delhi nor any organised history of anti-Brahman
movements. Frightened as they were, most non-Brahman, non-Baniya castes
reached the polling booths with the resolve to vote the NDA out of power.
A caste-wise study would conclusively prove that the XIVth Lok Sabha
has the least number of Brahman-Baniya MPs since 1952. This amazing
anti-Brahman-Baniya upsurge was missed by all.