By Kancha Ilaiah
The BJP is making a show
of empowering the Sudra/OBC forces within... But how will the Sangh
Parivar resolve the caste contradictions within Hindu religion?
With the appointment of M.
Venkaiah Naidu as party president, Vinay Katiyar as president of the
Uttar Pradesh unit and Uma Bharti being asked to take over as chief
of the Madhya Pradesh unit, an opinion has been created that there is
a shift in the social position of the Bharatiya Janata Party. There
have been indications, over a period of time, that the Sudra/OBC forces
in the party have begun fighting for their share. In Gujarat, the Patels
and OBCs under the leadership of Narendra Modi, himself an OBC, used
their muscle power in the recent riots and gained an upper hand against
the "dwija" forces that were controlling the organisational
network in that State.
At the time of the demolition
of the Babri Masjid, the Sangh Parivar mobilised youth from among the
Sudra/OBCs and the Dalits for muscle power. During this period, L. K.
Advani was projected as the organisational inspiration. Most of those
who participated in the demolition came from a non-Brahminical background
as they were, and still are, seen as being most useful for physical
When the BJP came to power
at the Centre, the Brahminical forces got more power. Since then, the
Sudra/OBC forces on the one hand and the Dalits on the other, within
the organisation, have been getting bitter: they played a key role in
the demolition of the Babri Masjid but had no major share in the power
structure. This posed a challenge to Mr. Advani's authority as those
who provided the muscle power had to be rewarded.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh was the brainchild of Savarkar and Golwalkar, two Maharashtrian
Brahmin ideologues. When it began to aspire for political power it was
headed by Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a Bengali Brahmin. Now, several branches
of the RSS such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal have
come up. The parent organisation and its branches were quite consciously
controlled by Brahmin leaders/intellectuals. When the RSS began working
out militant strategies, initially Brahmin youth were mobilised.
When the ideological congruence
between the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS began to take place in the face
of the contentious Partition question, the RSS began to transform itself
into a mass militant organisation. To take up rioting campaigns and
to defend its cadre from Muslim attacks it needed a large number of
strong youth. At that stage it had to go beyond the "dwija"
social base and recruit Sudra/OBCs and Dalit youth. Given the nature
of the Baniyas, they could hardly be recruited into the RSS' militant
wings. There are very few Kshatriyas in the Parivar outfits.
After the Jan Sangh was started,
a section of Baniyas moved away from the Congress and the Jan Sangh
began to emerge as a Brahmin-Baniya party in terms of spiritual ideology.
Its social base was basically urban, supported as it was by these two
castes which had urbanised themselves in the post-Independence period.
The party mobilised enough money from the economy of temples and from
the Baniya market and worked as a pressure group for traditional Brahmins
and Baniyas. During that period the Congress expanded its social base
into agrarian Sudra social forces and for a long time it came to be
identified as a "kulak" party. The Jan Sangh never had such
a social base.
There is a close nexus between
the emergence of Sudra landlordism and the kulak class in rural India.
As the Nehruvian state provided large-scale employment opportunities
for feudal Brahmins they sold off their properties and moved into the
urban economy. Most of the urban Brahmins were with the Congress as
it provided them state patronage and urban luxury. At the same time,
they were with the Sangh Parivar spiritually and ideologically. Many
were not comfortable with Nehruvian secularism.
The Emergency gave a new
life to the Jan Sangh. The RSS changed the party's name and tried to
expand its social base in the larger towns, mobilising some service
castes around it. Its strategy was two-fold: to mobilise the Sudra castes
without invoking the caste discourse and to handle the Dalit question
quite carefully because a lot of people within its fold still believed
in untouchability and casteism. After the BJP was established, its resolve
to overthrow the Congress and enter the power structure became stronger.
In order to do so it had only one way before it it had to mobilise
the Sudra social forces that had acquired a considerable amount of landed
property, and thereby control over labour castes and control over local
and regional political power.
Unlike the Gandhian Congress,
the BJP did not have any language of social reform because it went against
the historical interests of the Brahminical forces that started the
Hindutva movement. When a political party without a social reform agenda
wants to come to power in a casteised country such as India, Kautilyanism
is the only course available. In the context of Mandal social reform,
the BJP worked out the Mandir agenda for which it needed a lot of muscle
power. This was required for two purposes: to mobilise Sudra/OBC social
forces as vote mobilisers and to intensify the rioting campaigns against
the Muslims. A lot of Sudra/OBC elements involved in rioting activity
get entangled in legal litigations; and after they are discharged in
the cases, show their "gratitude" by remaining with the Hindutva
organisations. All organisations that believe in rioting as a vote and
money-mobilisation activity expand their cadre base like this.
The Sangh Parivar had to
handle the peculiar problem of using the Sudra/OBC and Dalit forces
for communal activities without allowing them to aspire for spiritual
power in the Hindu temple system and also in the "real power"
of the Parivar organisations. In an unreformed Hindu social structure
even a man such as Mr. Advani, a non-Brahmin, will not easily be allowed
to become the Prime Minister. Perhaps to overcome this problem, efforts
are now on to link Mr. Advani's heritage with that of Lord Rama.
As part of the process of
its so-called social engineering, the BJP tried to establish credibility
among the Dalits by making Bangaru Laxman party president. That experiment
failed for internal and external reasons. Now, it is making a show of
empowering the Sudra/OBC forces within. That is, perhaps, the reason
why a Kamma kulak, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, is its president. If Mr. Advani
becomes the Prime Minister the share of Sudra/OBCs in the Government
might also increase. But how will the Sangh Parivar resolve the caste
contradiction within Hindu religion? The priestly class in Hinduism
does not want any reform.
After the massive deployment
of muscle power in Gujarat, the Sudra/OBC forces seem to have gained
the upper hand. If the Ram temple is built with more deployment of muscle
power the Sudra/OBCs may ask for a bigger place in Hinduism. But the
priestly class will not allow it.
Organised religions survived
and expanded only by establishing spiritual democracy within themselves.
There are no indications that Hinduism will allow spiritual democracy
within its structure. The Hindutva forces may pretend that the agenda
is being Sudraised but Hinduism shall remain Brahminical. This is where
Hinduism as a religion, because of the religious civil war conditions
the Hindutva forces are creating, may meet its Waterloo.