Reshaping Indian Politics

06May07

‘Not since Ambedkar has there been such an attempt to reshape Indian politics.Dalit politics, outside the Congress party, has been exclusivist in nature. Mayawati is trying to change all this. She’s trying to weld together upper castes, poor OBC’s, Dalits and Muslims under the leadership of the Jatavs, a dalit caste to which Mayawati belongs’, says Ravish Kumar from NDTV who is known for his fierce stand in Khairlanji issue; a rare breed of journalism in India.

India’s grand political sociology has been turned on its head, but will the experiment succeed?

Like Khurja’s famed pottery there are twists and turns in UP’s backwaters often in unpredictable ways.Take Anil Sharma, the BSP candidate from Khurja. A Brahmin, he started off as a Congressman 25 years ago. That was a time when Indira Gandhi was the empress and the Brahmins her trusted courtiers.

But ever since the eclipse of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, mandalisation of politics and the decline of the BJP’s hindutva plank, Brahmins across north India – especially UP – have been facing growing political irrelevance, something that Mayawati has capitalised on.Now as the Uttar Pradesh’s 10 percent Brahmins redefine their position in the power stakes the BSP has emerged as their top.”Congress is zero in the state. The reasons are clear. It has no leadership, no programme and no policies, especially for the community I belong,” Sharma said.

Biggest test

In the last decade the number of tickets to Brahmins has been rising. In 1996, the BSP gave tickets to 11 Brahmins out of which three won their seats. In 2002, 17 Brahmin candidates out the 36 put up by the party were elected.

This time round 87 upper caste tickets have gone to Brahmins. Mayawati has her own compulsions. In 1995 the BSP-SP government fell over differences on policy matters and increasing conflicts between OBCs and Dalits. At least 60 clashes between OBC’s and Dalits were reported in the first half of 1994.With Kanshi Ram’s definition of the Bahujan Samaj, SCs, STs, OBCs, and Muslims in tatters, the BSP now turned towards Brahmins.”Dalits and OBC’s stand face to face in rural areas. There is conflict between them. There can be no political alliance with them,” said Dalit intellectual Chandrabhan Prasad.

”Its too early to say whether Brahmins have come to stay with the BSP. I would like to wait and see what happens this time. If the BJP does well then there’s a problem for the BSP,” said Sudha Pai Prof. Centre for Political Studies, JNU.Election 2007 is Mayawati’s biggest test so far. She will have to prove to her supporters that not only can she win power but can retain it and complete a full term in office.

That could set the stage for the BSP’s expansion in other states. Also, it will indicate whether the BSP can cobble up the kind of caste coalition that made the Congress party a leading players for more nearly four decades.



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