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Verdict 2004:Triumph non-Brahmins

By Chandrabhan Prasad

30 May, 2004
The Pioneer

Call it political accident, or sheer coincidence, in Dr Manmohan Singh, a Sikh as a ruler of India, the non-Brahmans have come of age. Barring Defence, which should have otherwise gone to Shudras as it involves lots of violence, a Brahman, Pranab Mukherjee is made in-charge, which is a contradiction in terms. When have Brahmans excelled in warfare?

However, this irony is made up by the facts that the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, is a very accomplished Shudra and the External Affairs Ministry has gone to Natwar Singh, a Jat by birth. So, it is clear that the Jat has arrived. Who could have imagined this a decade back when movers and shakers of the community from all parts of India assembled for the first ever Jat "international conference" in Delhi?

Meanwhile, Jaipal Reddy, the Reddy, will head the Ministry of I&B and Culture. Now, the Reddys have traditionally been against all kinds of cultural refinements. P Chidambaram, a Shudra in Tamil classical social hierarchy, will head Finance. By local Tamil standards, the Chettiyars, a community identical to the northern Baniyas to which Chidambaram belongs, is more famous for its skills in hiding money than allowing it to flow into the market. Education has gone to Thakur Arjun Singh, a community historically hostile to any form of knowledge. Tourism has gone to Renuka Chaudhary, a Kamma. If one were to post a few Kamma officers at Indira Gandhi International Airport, many European tourists may decide to catch the first flight back home. With Railways now under the charge of Laloo Prasad Yadav, a very insisting Shudra, rail travellers can consider buying few more life insurance policies. His predecessor, Nitish Kumar, has set a fine precedent in this respect. And, finally, the joke of the first decade of the 21st Century: Communication and IT has gone to Dayanidhi Maran, overwhelmingly Shudra. As the joke goes, a talented and terribly imaginative Shudra architect designed a house for a Shudra landlord-billed as the house of the 22nd Century-in which it was envisioned to have a common dining room-cum-toilet. His argument in favour of the unique design: Who could have conceptualised this two centuries earlier?

As widely predicted, the Agriculture Ministry has gone to Sharad Pawar, a Maratha, who believes more in creating food scarcity for private gain than boost production. But, then, there is the great silver lining: All ministers have to derive their mandate from the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a leader with next to no organic links with this soil. She has no natural caste interests, and has often been caste-neutral, not only by birth, but also by her beliefs. To the Dalits and other social proletariats, a person with minimum Indian connections should be a better choice. Modern Indian history backs this proposition. It was the British who fought with the Indians to open the doors to the Dalits in education and brought every one equal before the law. More so, the present cabinet will be more accountable to Soniaji, than Parliament or the people. That is good for Dalits, as the Parliament is condemned by the massive presence of Shudras, who primarily represent their own caste groups.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, due to his excessive exposure to western culture and system of governance, can be expected to be radically different from rest of the Jat-Sikhs. And so are many Shudra ministers. Moreover, Singh enjoys the confidence of Soniaji, and his loyalty to her is unquestionable. The verdict of May 2004 is emphatic in one sense: It is a clear rejection of the NDA and its pro-rich, anti-Dalit policies. Yet, the verdict was fractured in the sense that it did not mandate any pre-poll alliance to rule.

This is only a theoretical and moral problem. Post-poll realignment of forces do happen in democracies, and, in that sense, the United Progressive Alliance has all the legitimacy it needs to rule, notwithstanding the fact that this mandate has been achieved by a re-negotiated settlement among various interest groups. The Dalits, the non-Brahmans, and the Congress party, all three have a historic opportunity. Almost all ideological positions and political ideologies with Leftist-Progressive-Secular-Liberal-anti-Brahman-pro-Dalit shades are constituents of the new government, whether inside or backing it from outside. In that sense, this is a historic moment for the Dalits in India's contemporary history. The Congress party too has the unique opportunity of making up for its past indifference towards the Dalit cause. Through five decades of rule, it squandered away the blind support which the Dalits had extended to the party, which, amazingly, continues to sustain in large parts of the country. The non-Brahman Shudras too have the chance to wash away all the sins which they have been committing on the Dalits since the abolition of zamindari after independence. If the Brahmans could abolish zamindari, an act which ultimately led to the decline of their own hegemony, why can't the Shudras too act in similar fashion? Dalit Diary, in coming weeks, will explore this opportunity with the new government.