The 2019 General Elections were seen as pivotal for the future of the country from the very beginning. It was touted as the Battle of Panipat by now Home Minister Amit Shah, the Opposition called it a battle for the soul of the country.
The results came in on the 23rd of May and it was a resounding victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even surpassing the great victory margin of 2014. But there was a greater story in the details, one that had been missed thus far by most sociologists and political analysts.
The greatest realignment in the recent political history of India has been the political consolidation of all castes under the banner of Hindutva. Mandal politics worked in the 1990s, the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party was successful in thwarting the BJP’s rise in Uttar Pradesh post the Ram Janambhoomi movement but failed miserably in 2019. There’s a lesson right there.
The cultural revolution that various political commentators have hinted at is precisely this phenomenon. The first time it happened in 2014, many considered it a ‘Black Swan’ event, that such a feat won’t be repeated again in 2019. But they were proved wrong. Not only did it repeat itself but the Hindu Consolidation was even greater this time around.
In 2019, according to a CSDS post-poll survey, 44% of Hindus voted for the BJP, an increase of 7% since 2014. There was an increase in BJP’s vote-share across all sections of Hindus. The Upper Caste vote-share went up to 52% from 47% in 2014, the vote-share among OBCs increased to 44% from 34%, the same for Dalits went up to 34% from 24%. Even among Adivasis, the BJP’s vote-share increased by a whopping 7%, from 37% to 44%.
There’s a good reason for us to believe that the Opposition political parties and the secular-liberal establishment were aware of the tectonic shift in the Hindu mindset. The propaganda of atrocities against Dalits and Tribals does point towards that fact. That leaders like Jignesh Mevani were propped up, who represent a very rabid form of caste politics, is further evidence of the attempt to thwart the political consolidation of Hindus.
That there has been a decisive cultural shift is further evidenced by the fact that despite events such as Bhima Koregaon, where deliberate attempts were made to stir a caste conflict, Hindus of all hues came out in large numbers to vote for Narendra Modi in 2019. The BJP will be acutely aware that they are dependent on this Hindu consolidation for its stellar performance and going forward, if it is to do well, then it has to further cement it.
The strategy of the Opposition will be to break this political consolidation. And from the events of the past couple of days, it appears their tactics will be more atrocity literature. The analysis of the Caste Composition of the ministers in the second term of the Modi government by Times of India and the BBC certainly points towards it.
Modi Cabinet Ministers List: Upper castes get big chunk of ministerial berths | India News – Times of India https://t.co/kCpBt5ZC11
— Saba Naqvi (@_sabanaqvi) June 1, 2019
Times of India, since then, after social media backlash, appears to have changed its headline to the soberer “Union Cabinet 2019: PM tries to accommodate most castes”, however, the implication in the article is still quite clear, that Upper Castes, and especially Brahmins, are over-represented in ministerial positions with respect to their share in the Indian population.
Individual accounts on social media as well have been trying to peddle this narrative and push the Dalit-Adivasi vote-bank away from the BJP. This strategy hasn’t worked in the past 5 years, therefore, it appears unlikely that it will in the next 5. There certainly has been a cultural revolution within Hindu society, the cause can be attributed to various factors but its occurrence is quite undeniable.
Moreover, the symbolism of a Dalit President presiding over the Oath-Taking ceremony with a Prime Minister from the OBC caste heading the government with a significant chunk of ministers from the Upper-Castes will not be lost on anyone. People from expected quarters may cry foul but the Modi 2.0 Cabinet does a pretty good job of inclusion on the basis of caste and is symbolic of the political consolidation of Hindus.
In the next 5 years, we can expect more polarization as Opposition parties become even more desperate to break the consolidation of Hindus behind the BJP. Because if they fail, too many of them will be relegated to political irrelevance.
The North-South divide will be propped up as well by vested interests and attempts will be made to further create a fissure within Indian society. The Dravidian brand of politics will find resonance with various regional parties as they try to feed the electorate with a sense of regional supremacy. In Bengal, we can see it taking shape as Mamata Banerjee attempts to paint all BJP supporters as outsiders. In social media, we have certain ’eminent intellectuals’ who believe Bengalis who support the BJP are not real Bengalis.
Coincidentally, the saffron surge in West Bengal was the greatest evidence of the fact that the BJP’s rise is fueled by the political consolidation of Hindus from all castes. Hindus from every caste and creed consolidated massively in favour of the BJP, thus, increasing their tally to 18 seats from 2 in 2014. It also marked the end of the Left as Muslims consolidated behind Mamata Banerjee.
Thus, the next 5 years will be extremely crucial for the unity and integrity of India. A last gasp attempt will be made by vested interests to retain their power even at the cost of damaging the social fabric of the country permanently. The efforts are already underway. Only time will tell how much success they achieve in their attempts.