By Kancha Ilaiah
Jun 17, 2013
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological position seems to be changing. From the 1980s when it emerged in a new avatar having given up its old name of Jan Sangh, and having left the Janata Party, its main ideological plank has been Hindutva. And L.K. Advani has been its ideological leader. Though the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was its the ideological epicentre of Hindutva, the BJP became its political face, challenging the Congress with slogans of cultural nationalism and pseudo-secularism.
One of the main problems of the Jan Sangh wing in the Janata Party, even when in power after the Emergency, was the constitution of the Mandal Commission. That was seen as a divisive step.
The Janata Party being a hodge-podge alliance of anti-Indira Gandhi political forces, quite a few Other Backward Class (OBC) leaders entered the Central government via the Lohia-socialist route and forced the Janata government to constitute the Mandal Commission, with B.P. Mandal, a Lohiaite, as its chairman.
The Brahminic forces within the Sangh Parivar were dead against expanding the reservation principle beyond what was being given to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which, incidentally, was opposed even within the Congress Party. Reservation was seen as a “dirty” word by all upper-caste intellectuals and politicians. In such a situation, constituting yet another commission headed by someone with strong OBC sympathies was seen as dangerously divisive within Hindu ranks.
The Jan Sangh left the Janata Party ostensibly on the issue of double membership, but its real problem was the constitution of the Mandal Commission. When the Mandal Commission Report was implemented in 1990, when V.P. Singh was Prime Minister, it shocked the Jan Sangh, which tried to pressure V.P. Singh not to implement the “divisive” policy. But the OBCs within the Janata Dal and the Kanshi Ram kind of political forces from outside forced the implementation of the Mandal report.
When Mr Advani subsequently embarked on his Rath Yatra, it was ostensibly on the Babri Masjid issue, but the real intention was to pull the rug from under the V.P. Singh government, which had implemented the Mandal report. This is when Narendra Modi, a lower OBC himself, put his weight behind Mr Advani, with a clear goal of his own.
The Rath Yatra and the campaign of communal riots at different places along its course were meticulously planned by the RSS. For this to be successful they needed a lot of OBC musclemen against whose children’s future of education and job reservation was that Kamandal movement aimed. Pramod Mahajan was the real Brahmin link between the underground organisation and money mobilisation for the Rath Yatra and he also managed the media. Mr Modi, who was engaged in grassroots mobilisation, was unknown to the media during the whole course of the Rath Yatra. This is the origin of his anger against the Indian media.
The Brahmin lobby within the Sangh Parivar was, however, against Mr Advani acquiring such an elevated stature. That is why they built up Atal Behari Vajpayee as a counter, who did nothing to strengthen the organisation of the new BJP; he was just their poster-boy.
Mr Advani should have become the Prime Minister in 1996. But a section of the Brahminic forces within the Parivar promoted Mr Vajpayee on the grounds that he would be more acceptable to the nation as he was a Brahmin patriarch. This, even though the party won the election because of Mr Advani. Since then, Mr Advani has been a wounded soldier waiting for his day to dawn.
In the course of building up the party and organising communal campaigns, Mr Advani had to rely more on the new OBC leadership emerging from the BJP’s own ranks. Kalyan Singh, Rajnath Singh (a Rajput from Uttar Pradesh groomed to take on V.P. Singh), Uma Bharti, Narendra Modi, Venkaiah Naidu (a backroom Rajya Sabha politician like Pramod Mahajan, who could never get elected to the Lok Sabha, but was good at mobilising funds from sympathetic capitalists) were some of the key young leaders.
Mr Advani knew that the Sangh Parivar would not allow a non-Brahmin to become the Prime Minister of the nation so easily. The OBC emergence within the Sangh Parivar was seen as the only alternative. Mr Advani also promoted the OBC leadership in order to tell the OBCs that his brand of Hindutva was inclusive.
Today, the same OBC group that he groomed, backed by Rajnath Singh, who is playing his own anti-Brahmin role from within, wants Mr Advani to fall in line. But this is happening before Mr Advani can achieve his goal of at least once sitting on the Prime Minister’s Gaddi.
Mr Advani is unable to understand Rajnath Singh going along with the Moditva line. He needs to understand that unlike a Sindhi like him, the Indian Shatriyas can never forget what Parshurama did to their heritage. V.P. Singh had that streak in him. Now Rajnath Singh is trying it. He knows that if Mr Modi does not become acceptable to the National Democratic Alliance grouping even after the BJP gets the most number of votes in 2014, Mr Modi may compromise by agreeing to Rajnath Singh being Prime Minister in order to keep out Sushma Swaraj.
In any case, Mr Advani’s Hindutva phase is over in the BJP. This is the phase of Moditva, where Mr Modi can play a much bigger role than Mr Advani has ever done. In this phase the OBC muscle power that the BJP has mobilised for the last 30 years under the slogan of cultural nationalism is sought to be used to pull in votes. Mr Modi’s slogans of “Vikas” and “Congress Hatao” are expected to deliver votes. He does not want to invoke the ideology of pro-OBC reservation in order to mobilise OBC votes. The party believes Mr Modi’s charisma will do that.
But the OBCs of the nation are under many regional parties, with a strong ideological alliance of reservations in every structure of the state. If Mr Modi does not want to go that route in his campaign, will he get the OBCs votes?
When the Congress is pushing its reservation plus several welfare packages for SC/ST and minorities, the OBCs are unlikely to believe in Mr Modi’s development programme, which is likely to enrich only the rich who happen to be, by and large, upper castes.
Moditva means Mr Modi in power in Delhi with the Vikas of the upper castes in mind. Why would the OBCs vote for him, leaving their regional OBC leaders in the lurch?
Kancha Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad