The UP election is a tussle between Hindutva and Dalit Bahujan politics

By Sanjay Kumar & Badre Alam for

More than three decades of BSP politics have, no doubt, given political voices to the Bahujan masses. In this connection, scholars like Christophe Jaffrelot and others have called politics of lower caste as a ‘silent revolution’ in north Indian society. To put differently, BSP politics have in fact provided a political and social platform to express the genuine issues and problems confronted by Subaltern and Bahujan masses. In this respect, a noted social scientist, Prof. Sudha Pai (Kanshi Ram: The Man and his Legacy-an essay, 2006) writes,

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“The emergence and establishment of the BSP as a strong Dalit-based party is an important achievement and the party has contributed substantially to the social deepening of Indian democracy. It created a new identity and counter-identity to the varna system of `Dalit’ and Ambedkarism, respectively. This has succeeded in removing the hold of Brahminical ideology and the submissive attitude of the Dalits providing them with a new confidence and self-respect.”

However, after the rise of Hindutva forces, north Indian political life have in fact posed several challenges before subaltern politics, particularly after the demolition of  Babri Masjid in 1992.  In this context, scholars have pointed out that Mandal politics was accompanied by Mandir politics.  In short,  one could argue that to contain the Dalit politics, Hindutva forces will have to sharpen politics of religious polarization by raising the emotive issues, such as Uniform Civil Code, Ram Temple, cow protection, Love Jihad, terrorism etc. For instance, a similar trend can be noticed in the contemporary times, mainly after the Una and Rohith agitation, when exploited and oppressed masses, Dalit and Minority forge unity against the onslaught of Communal outfits like RSS-VHP combine.  In other words, Una and Rohith have successfully exposed the Hindutva politics and provided a political social platform to forge larger social solidarity among Dalit, minority and Left-progressive forces.

In this given political environment once again there is a challenge before BSP to provide political consciousness among the Bahujan masses so that they cannot be cheated by champions of Hindutva politics on the pretext of so-called ‘developmental politics’. In the communally polarized situation, it is a great responsibility of BSP led by Mayawati to restore the faith of Bahujan masses and the politics of social justice on the lines of Ambedkarites thoughts and ideas, which has been recently seen in the case of Rohith Vemula and Una movement. While doing so, we believe that Bahujan politics can successfully stop the juggernaut of Hindutva politics in UP election. To put differently, we also put forth the view that only radical Ambedkarites notion of Dalit politics have the political capital to defeat Hindutva politics in the ongoing UP election. Apart from communal politics, it is ironical to note that even Samajwadi Party regime and its politics of so-called secularism and development has been also replete with communal tension and rise of caste atrocities during its last five years rule. To put simply, the so-called Secular regime also compromised with communal forces and involved in the communal riots to get electoral benefits. Here, Kairana and Muzaffarnagar can be taken as case in point. Before coming to SP regime and its performance vis-a-vis minority and Dalit issues, now let us first discuss the BJP-RSS combine role in promoting caste and communal violence.

BJP-RSS on caste and communal violence

It is pertinent to note that RSS- BJP combine have made several promises during the electoral campaign like ‘Sabka sath sabka vikas’ and ‘Ache din aane wale hai’.  However, civil society groups and eminent academics have pointed out that nothing concrete have been done on the ground level so for. On the contrary, caste and communal violence has increased consequently. In this context, government reports and academics like Professor Thorat and others observe that caste atrocities and practices of untouchability have largely continued unabated.  It has to be noted that like earlier, again BJP-RSS return to the agenda of ‘Communal politics’ in the UP election, 2017. For instance, while distributing the tickets, not a single Muslim candidate has been given the ticket by BJP in UP election. In addition to this, BJP has also given more tickets to non-Yadav OBCs and Upper castes. Contrary to the ‘politics of development’, once again communal issues such as building Ram Temple at Ayodhya, Muzaffarnagar riots, Uniform Civil Code and Triple Talaq, Cow killings etc. have been taking centre-stage rather than real issues confronted by the subaltern classes. In this respect, noted scholar Mark Tully also writes, ‘BJP’s Manifesto for the UP election left no doubt that the Party intended to mount a Hindu Nationalist Campaign’ ( The Hindustan Times, February 5,2017).

In addition to this, some BJP MPs and ministers have also made communal statements against religious minority, to sharpen communal feelings among electorates in the context of UP election. In short, on the basis of BJP government records at the centre and State-wise, it could be argued that both caste and communal tension have tremendously increased.The point must be underlined that under the Modi regime, in 2015 communal violence has been increased in 17 percent with 751 incidents recorded across the country as against 644 in 2014 at national level. Besides, Communal and  caste violence, recent  Modi’s demonetization move have badly ruined the agrarian structure of economy, retail sector, loss of jobs  and more than hundred people lost their life. As a matter of fact, Peasant suicide rate have increased 45 percent in BJP regime. Besides, according to University Grant Commission, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Gujarat University witnessed highest number of caste-based discrimination.

SP Politics and caste and communal Violence

It is sad to note that even so-called Secular and claim to be a champion of socialist ideas have in fact compromised greatly with communal forces. To note more than five hundred communal incident have taken place since SP government came to power in UP.  Here, Muzaffarnagar and Dadri incident could be taken as empirical evidence. In this respect, civil society and fact finding reports have clearly indicated that SP leaders and state machinery have been found involved in fomenting communal tension. Besides, communal violence, it is pertinent to note that atrocities on Dalits, women have also continued unabated. In short, contrary  to principle of secularism and social  justice, last five years of  SP rule has been also replete with caste and communal violence  in UP. According to national crime record bureau, 2014 most crime against scheduled caste was registered in Uttar Pradesh near about (8,075).  Among the top state in terms of Communal incident, more than 155 took place in UP only in 2015 and 133 in 2014. UP State crime records bureau show that rape cases have gone from 3467 in 2014 to 9075 in 2015.  In short, rape cases have increased 161 percent. On the basis of these empirical data, it could be argued that the so-called secular regime also failed to protect Dalit, minorities and women at large.

The need to fight both caste and capitalism

Una and  Rohith Vemula’s resistance  have clearly indicated that Dalit  politics  have as a matter of fact moved from symbolic politics to  the politics of social justice. In other words, Dalit politics now have moved beyond the symbolic politics and incorporated the issues such as land rights, socio-economic inequality along with the fighting against communal forces, unleashed by the RSS-BJP combine as earlier reflected in Dalit Panther movement too. In the present context, it is crucial for BSP politics to take into consideration the questions raised by the Una and Rohith Vemula’s resistance to defeat the opportunist politics of SP in the name of so-called secularism and development in short term and communal and Brahmanical brand of politics led by BJP-RSS combined in the long run. Dalit politics led by BSP has a political potential provided that if it seriously take into account the radical ideas Dalit-Bahujan politics.

In short, tactics and strategy of ‘Social engineering’ which is currently adopted by BSP is only helpful to capture the political power but not a radical social change.  In given political and social context, Bahujan politics have to reinvent on the lines of radical Ambedkar’s ideas, which focuses on both material and identity aspects. As Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar long before reminded us that we must fight both ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Brahmanism’ at the same time. In other words, toeing his views, we note that if Bahujan politics really committed to electorally and politically defeat Hinduvta politics must unite oppressed and subaltern classes.

Badre Alam is a Ph.D Research Scholar at Political Science Department, University of Delhi. Sanjay Kumar is Ph.D Research Scholar at Academy International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.