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Mainstream, VOL LV No 15 New Delhi April 1, 2017

Communalism Trumps Social Justice For Now

Sunday 2 April 2017, by Sandeep Pandey

After the implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations by the Vishwanath Pratap Singh Government at the Centre in 1990, it has been only an Other Backward Classes or a Scheduled Caste leader in Uttar Pradesh at the helm, except for a five-year period from 1997 to 2002 when the only Bharatiya Janata Party Government formed after the Babri Masjid demolition had two upper-caste Chief Ministers, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh. [However, before Gupta and Singh there was a Backward Classes CM from the BJP, Kalyan Singh (1997-99); he was also the BJP CM in 1991-92 having supervised the Babri mosque destruction on December 6, 1992, the day the Centre removed him from power and imposed President’s Rule in the State.]

The post-1990 period was called the era of Social Justice indicating that communities, which were not politically well represented or at least not in proportion to their presence in population, got a chance to be in power. A popular slogan of the Bahujan Samaj Party was that the ‘numerically higher should have proportionate participation’. Before 1990 it was mainly the upper caste, a Brahmin or a Thakur, who headed the UP Government. The social justice politics was seen as a successful example of empower-ment of the marginalised sections of society and Mayawati’s ascension to chief ministership was nothing short of a miracle, probably the rarest example in a democracy where a person hailing from the lowest rungs of society, that too a woman, rose to power based on the Constitu-tion-backed electoral process.

UP’s example was quoted as a successful model to fight the politics of communalism, for example, in the State of Gujarat. But the reverse has happened. The politics of communalism has defeated that of social justice. With this is back the upper-caste dominance in UP politics. This is an irony but had Yogi Adityanath been declared a chief ministerial candidate before the elections it is not sure whether the BJP would have won in an OBC-dominated State. To garner the non-Yadav OBC votes Keshav Prasad Maurya was made the BJP President in UP. After the voters were tricked into voting for the BJP, an upper-caste Chief Minister has been imposed because that is where the BJP’s core ideology, and hence its vote-bank, lies. However, this vote-bank is insufficient to win elections. The BJP also went all out to secure the non-Chamar Jatav votes from among the Dalits this time.

The elite BJP supporter is under the illusion that merit will now take precedence over caste, law and order will be better and corruption will come to an end. It is abundantly clear that the BJP could not have won without caste machinations and has replaced social justice politics by a retrogressive combination of entrenchment of the pernicious caste system and explosive communalism.

The Chief Minister faces three cases including seven serious Indian Penal Code sections. He has two charges of promoting enmity between different groups, two charges of injuring or defiling place of worship, one charge of criminal intimidation and more. Once when he was arrested by the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur he wept in Parliament alleging threat to his life. It did not probably occur to him that the victims of violence, inflicted by his followers, or their families similarly may have felt threatened.

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has eleven cases against him including 15 serious IPC sections. Twenty out of 44 Ministers have cases pending against them with 17 of them facing serious IPC sections. Thirtyfive Ministers in the newly appointed Cabinet are crorepatis. Is it all hard-earned money? Did the candidates spend within the limits prescribed by the Election Commission to contest their elections? One can only pity the gullible BJP supporter.

The BJP secured 39.7 per cent votes. With its allies Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party the vote-share of the alliance went upto 41.4 per cent. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party together polled 44 per cent votes. Along with the Congress party, the vote-share of the secular alliance becomes 50.2 per cent. Hence the politics of social justice still has an upper hand in UP.

 In terms of seat-share if the SP and BSP had formed an alliance, as the then Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, of the SP had suggested after the Bihar election results, they would have won 239 seats out of 403 and hence would have defeated the BJP convincingly. If we add the Congress party’s votes to this alliance, the number of seats would have gone up to 282 and with the inclusion of other like-minded parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Communist Party of India, the secular alliance would have won 296 seats. This would have realised Akhilesh Yadav’s aspiration of securing 300 seats with the help of the alliance partners.

The aformentioned numbers indicate that the game is still not over for the SP and BSP if they open up to each other and revive the Mulayam Singh-Kanshiram-era alliance. Mayawati, for whom political oblivion looms large, will have to overcome her antipathy towards the SP and contemplate an alliance. In any case she will not have to deal with Mulayam Singh and Shivpal, of whom she may not have very good memories. Akhilesh is a fresh face and she may not have a problem with him. But Akhilesh will probably have to cede the leadership of the alliance to her as she comes from a more depressed background and is a senior leader. This is the sacrifice Akhilesh will have to make if at all he is serious about displacing the BJP from power.

 The BJP is trying to subvert the constitutional values of socialism, secularism, sovereignty and even democracy. There is a need for parties and people with belief in such values to come together and defeat the mischievous designs of Hindutva politics.

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.