The BJP fielded Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind as its candidate for the President of India. The BJP’s continued Dalit outreach unnerved the Congress, which decided to field Babu Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meira Kumar.
The difference could not be more stark or more fitting : on the one side, a Dalit born in an ordinary family who rose to become a Supreme Court lawyer, not to mention holding several other legislative and constitutional posts. On the other side, the daughter of a powerful politician with her many flatterers in media and Lutyens’ Delhi.
What a way for the Congress and liberals to give a thumbs down to the aspirations of Indian youth. When it comes to the secular establishment, privilege attained purely by birth is the only thing that ultimately matters. Pretty much exactly like caste.
It is quite understandable therefore that the Congress, a party of political feudal lords, would field one of their own high born political princesses for the highest Constitutional post in India.
On the other hand, it is quite laughable that the Congress thinks elevating a political princess who just happens to belong to the Dalit caste, is somehow an answer to the BJP’s sustained engagement with Dalits.
Quite simply, the Congress and its retinue of liberal flatterers don’t see the difference. And even if they knew the difference, it wouldn’t matter because they are simply fighting on the wrong side of history.
Whether India’s so called secular left likes it or not, the RSS/BJP today is offering to Dalits a very powerful narrative of Hindus coming together to reclaim the greatness of their nation. Why was there a Dalit cascade in favor of Modi in 2014? Why is it, that despite every possible propaganda effort from the establishment to throw the Modi government out of favor with Dalits, the results of Uttar Pradesh 2017 were an exact replica of the results of May 2014?
The ‘secular’ left consoles itself with the belief that somehow the Sangh Parivar is full of closet casteists and it is only a matter of time before they get exposed in the eyes of Dalits. The ecosystem is always in a hurry to spread every real or imagined ‘news’ story that seems to show that such a phenomenon is finally happening.
Their fatal weakness is that they have never considered the possibility that they might be wrong. When Modi came to the holy city of Varanasi and replaced a powerful Brahmin leader as Murli Manohar Joshi, a message was sent.
What was the message? The message was that the BJP would make room for merit, no matter what caste or background the person might come from. The same message has been sent today with Ramnath Kovind : that the BJP is a vehicle by which a person of humble background can reach the greatest heights.
But what did the Congress expect? They convinced themselves for a while that the BJP’s new focus on OBCs and Dalits would lead to “Brahmin anger”.
But that never happened. The Brahmins stuck with BJP as always. And the OBCs and Dalits came to the BJP fold in large numbers.
Today it is Modi, an OBC. Before this it used to be Vajpayee, a Brahmin. Who knows who will lead the BJP tomorrow? It could be a Dalit or a Brahmin or maybe a tribal. Whoever leads will have to rise through the ranks instead of being born with a golden ticket. That’s what people see today.
The Congress party and its political zamindars are missing the fatal weakening of the caste system.
In the eyes of the Congress party, the typical Dalit is a person who is full of hatred towards other Hindus. In their eyes, a typical Dalit goes to lots and lots of beef parties. And their economics is supposed to be essentially Communist. Because, for some mysterious reason, Dr. Ambedkar chose to posthumously join the Communist party after despising it all his life.
But the “Dalit” that the liberals think they are speaking to barely exists in this country, if at all. A simple calculation based on NSSO data shows that only about 3% of India’s 300 million Dalits and tribals actually consume beef. To put this number in perspective, let us take the fact that surveys generally show about 5-6% of Muslims voting for BJP. In other words, the BJP does a better job of representing Indian Muslims than the liberal beef lobby is doing of representing Dalits and tribals! The hysterical protesters for “social justice” on the left may kindly take note…
Liberals have to realize that they can’t use caste as some kind of card against Indian nationalism. In fact, for historical reasons, the so called “lower” castes are farthest from the rootless liberalism that creates useful idiots for Pakistan. The “lower” castes never collaborated with British Empire, never enjoyed its patronage and were never socialized into its mode of thinking.
And so if Dalits today see the liberals trying to use caste as a card against Indian nationalism, they will severely punish such elements. Dalits will stand with India much before they stand with elements such as Mani Shankar Aiyar.
The secular establishment should ask itself why BJP manages constantly to expand its base. Each time they try to box in the BJP as a party limited to this group or that group, it manages to expand its base far outside that group. The BJP is able to keep adding Brahmins to OBCs to non-Hindi speakers and more and more.
On the other hand, trying to add Dalit to Muslim always results in a flop. Mayawati wasn’t the first to try this math and she won’t be the last. This is what happens when you believe a fake version of history and try to add up apples and oranges.
Perhaps India’s secular liberals should consider the possibility that a Dalit is, first and foremost, a Hindu. He/she has no sympathy for Communist movements or for a Pakistani design to tear India into pieces. And so, if the Hindu right manages to communicate a larger design for Hindu unity that goes beyond caste, Dalits will happily join the flow.
India’s secular liberals are fighting on the wrong side of history; now it is on the Hindu Right to be on the right side and not get trapped in the narrative being pushed by the left.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.