by Ritu Sarin
Triumph rather than dismay prevails in the residence of Ram Vilas Paswan, who was the coal and mines minister until he resigned on Monday evening. Paswan claims that his decision to quit was a well guarded secret for the past two weeks, known only to his his aides and family members. At around 4.30 p.m, after his resignation had reached the Prime Ministerís Office, he says he told his wife about the development. Paswan took time off to talk to Ritu Sarin and discuss the reasons behind his resignation.
When did you decide to resign on the Gujarat issue?
ALMOST a month ago. First, there was the Godhra incident which everyone in Parliament wanted to condemn but could not because of the Budget. Then came the fallout of the incident which went on day after day. Then, news items started appearing explaining how the issue had been politicised and how the BJPís votebank politics had taken over. People from the National Human Rights Commission and the National Minorities Commission visited Gujarat, and everyone felt the violence was state sponsored. When the prime minister visited Gujarat, his words were like a balm on wounds and we were all hopeful that the situation would be tackled.
Narendra Modiís fate was to have been sealed at the BJPís Goa meeting. Why wasnít any decision taken?
The entire country was hopeful that the BJP Government would bring about a change in Gujaratís leadership in Goa. On the contrary, Modi got a very warm welcome at the railway station, complete with bands and garlands. I never get into drawing room politics, so I donít know how decisions changed in Goa. All I can say is that somewhere, they (the BJP) feel that after the riots, some feelings have been generated between Hindus and Muslims and that if there are elections in Gujarat, they will win under Modiís leadership. But this is not a question of winning elections in one state. It is a question of the impact of the issue the world over. National interest should come first, followed by the partyís interest and then personal interest. When personal interest and party interest override national interest, it can prove dangerous for the country.
How many of the NDAís allies share the opinion of the Lok Jana Shakti?
Every political party felt that there should have been a change of leadership in Gujarat. No party was demanding that a non-BJP chief minister be installed. Unfortunately, Gujarat was never discussed in Cabinet meetings or NDA meetings. It was always said that this was an internal issue of the BJP. We kept saying, this is not an internal matter but a national event. Where nearly 1,000 people have been killed, Gujarat cannot be an internal party matter. We have proudly been claiming ourselves to be a secular country but now negative reports are pouring in from foreign missions including the British High Commission. And it is not as if the Muslims alone are agitating. All journalists who are writing about Gujarat are not Muslims, are they?
Did you discuss the fallout the prime minister?
No. My party took the decision that Narendra Modi should go and many parties felt like this. The Telugu Desam Party, Mamata Banerjeeís party, the Biju Janata Dal, have all been very worried.
There is a crucial vote on the censure motion in Parliament on Tuesday. What impact will your resignation have among other allies?
My MPs will vote in favour of the censure but I cannot speak for the rest. The allies are all worried. After I resigned, Mamata Banerjee called me, Chandrababu Naidu called me. I told them since I am a minister, I had to take the decision today but you can decide until the day of voting. I had to issue a whip today but they can take a decision even at the eleventh hour. Let it be very clear ó if I have resigned from the Cabinet, it means my party is no longer in the NDA. I have parted company with the NDA. Let us not forget, Gujarat is the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was killed by the bullet of a fanatic but had he been alive today, he would have shot himself and died.
Did you find the NDA Government hemmed in by the RSS leadership?
I Cannot say whose hands were tied and how. My objection was, how they brushed aside the Gujarat situation saying it was an internal matter. For the past month, people are being killed every day. And whether people are travelling in trains or planes, they are criticising the government. In Delhi, they used to get maximum votes on Hindutva. Did they get the votes this time? Nobody has been able to defend the Government on this issue.
There is speculation that you hastened your departure because of the formation of a government in UP and the change of your portfolio. In fact, I delayed my resignation so that people did not link it with Uttar Pradesh.Several days ago, I said we will give unconditional support to the Mayawati Government. As far as new portfolios go, other ministers like Maneka Gandhi expressed unhappiness. I was the only one who said the choice of the portfolio was the prerogative of the prime minister.
Is this the beginning of a revolt in the NDA? Will other ministers step down too?
I can only talk about the BJPís partners in the Government. I know the allies are worried over the way the BJP and RSS are functioning. I, for one, realised that the Gujarat Government could not safeguard the lives and property of the people and that the fallout of the Godhra incident should have been contained. I cannot speak for other allies since they may have their own compulsions and needs.
Has the crisis in the NDA brought about a certain maturity in Sonia Gandhiís leadership of the Congress?
That always happens. When the sway of the ruling party becomes weak, the opposition party always benefits. Yes, the Congress has benefitted
New Delhi,Tuesday, April 30, 2002: Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister- designate Mayawati today said the resignation of Ram Vilas Paswan from the Union Cabinet was linked to her coming to power at the head of a coalition government.
"Ram Vilas Paswan didn't like me becoming Chief Minister," Mayawati, said adding that he should have quit the government before if the violence in Gujarat, as cited by him, was the reason for his decision.
Mayawati told a TV channel that the timing of Paswan's resignation was interestingly linked to the invitation by the U.P Governor Monday to form the government.
She also said that Paswan, a dalit leader, does not want any other leadership to emerge from the scheduled castes.
The BSP leader also said that it appeared that Paswan did not like the emerging political alignments in U.P.
To a question, she said her cabinet will be small and the number of ministers from each party would be proportionate to the strength of their MLAs. Mayawati is due to be sworn in on May three.
Both BSP & BJP seem to agree that in a political system of multiple social groups, accommodation is the only way to capture power, says UDAY SINHA
UP ki mazboori hai, Mayawati zaroori hai", Devender would shout when asked about the person he would like to see Chief Minister.The vegetable vendor of Lucknow's posh Nirala Nagar locality knew what UP required much before the election results were announced. "Sarkar to beejepi banwayegi (the BJP would help BSP form the government), he had predicted.
Devender was always convinced that ideological rhetoric notwithstanding, politicians would do things that are politically expedient for them. Forging an alliance, therefore, to form a government in UP is not all that important as keeping Mulayam Singh away from power while projecting a viable coalition of divergent caste groups against a resurgent Congress. While the BSP will do every possible thing to push Samajwadi Party into political oblivion, the BJP needs to demonstrate its winning ability to check its core swarna vote bank from drifting away to an upbeat Congress. "This will ultimately prove to be the inner strength of the BSP-BJP alliance," suggests Rajesh Pandey, a BJP legislator, who has been favouring the deal from day one.
Realising the collective strength of Dalits and the oppressed backwards, the BJP is only too willing to walk hand in hand with the BSP in UP. While the BJP will have a strong partner to face the next round of parliamentary elections, the BSP can push Mulayam Singh Yadav to the fringes. In Mayawati's calculation, the core constituency of Samajwadi Party would collapse if it remains out of power for some more time. "Despite the mighty Samajwadi leader being projected as the chief ministerial candidate, behenji has proved to be the biggest hurdle in Mulayam's ascendancy to power," says a newly-elected Brahmin BSP legislator. "Imagine what could happen to the SP's core votebank if the party continues to be out of power for two more years?", asks Brajendra Vyas, a BSP first timer in UP Vidhan Sabha.
Both the parties first came together in 1995 when the BSP-SP parted ways and Mayawati's government was propped up by the BJP. There was enthusiasm about the new political understanding between two outfits that stood at two opposite ends of the social spectrum. But that relationship could not last long and they separated after four months. "Both the partners were not used to each other's language," analysed a BSP old timer and an employee of the state government.
The second time they came together in 1997, there was a sense of relief as the fate of the newly-elected legislators of the 13th Assembly was hanging in suspended animation. They parted ways after six months as the "style" of the leaders (Mayawati and Kalyan) did not suit each other. Mayawati withdrew support but the Kalyan government did not collapse. It survived riding piggy back on defectors from the BSP and the Congress. Mayawati in return took "revenge" in the 12th Lok Sabha. "The slate is clean now. There is no reason why the present alliance should not work," says Dr Sahay, a social scientist. The alliance should continue because there is neither euphoria nor a sense of relief this time. Instead, the sense of anxiety and the abysmally low level of expectation would act as a deterrent for both the camps.
Mayawati considers governance as a major tool to effect changes in her Dalit constituency. Having created physical symbols in the form of statues, parks and monuments in the memory of Dr Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule and Lord Buddha, Mayawati will now be interested in implementing land reforms, undertaking welfare measures and giving employment to Dalits and oppressed communities for long term benefits. "It is her political compulsion to be in governance for a longer period of time," says Dr Ajit Pandey, who teaches sociology at Lucknow University.
This is possible because of three distinct reasons. One, unlike 1997, the Chief Minister's chair is not going to be shared by the coalition partner. Mayawati, for all practical purposes, is going to head the coalition government for a full five-year term. The onus is on her and she knows too well that there is no BJP leader in the immediate vicinity to challenge her position.
The second reason is her desire to emerge as a major force in state politics. "She would like to follow Chandrababu Naidu's example where she supports the BJP in Delhi and the BJP ensures her continuation in Lucknow," suggests Dr Ramesh Dixit, Reader of Political Science in Lucknow University. This is possible now, especially in the absence of Kalyan Singh, her successor in 1997, who was subsequently expelled from the party, and Rajnath Singh, who is likely to be shifted to Delhi to help her complete a trouble-free tenure.
The third most important reason is BSP's perceptible shift from "bahujanvaad" to "sarvajanhit" (welfare of all caste and communities). This ideological shift has also brought about a change in the BSP's vocabulary and language. The slogans like "Tilak tarazu... and brahmin, baniya, thakur chhod! baki sab hain DS4" have lost their relevance. Mayawati liberally obliged Muslim and manuvaadi ticket seekers to project that the BSP was not anti upper caste. This shift was noticeable in the 1998 and 1999 parliamentary elections when the party distributed audio tapes, welcoming members of the upper castes into its fold and promising them respect. In fact, at a public meeting in Basti way back in 1998, Mayawati declared the shift from Bahujanvaad. "The BSP is no more a caste based party because it has adopted the policy of Sarvajan hit..." She was emphatic. This shift helped her mellow down. A new Mayawati was emerging in the process-from an uncouth and acerbic aurat to the astute politician, who was willing to dilute the stubborn limits of aggressive caste rhetoric and favour more inclusive social coalitions than before. With this important shift in ideology, the leadership also encouraged some compositional and structural changes to take place in the party. No wonder then that the BSP fared well in the urban local body elections. "If Mayawati is adjusting with this urban face of the party, there is no reason why she can't adjust with the BJP," says Surendra Verma, a banker who feels that the BSP-BJP coalition would be a meaningful long-lasting political relationship.
As a party searching for ways to increase its stakes in the state, the BSP's first attempt would obviously be to consolidate its base among the Scheduled Castes while reaching out to other potentially viable constituencies among the non-Yadav OBCs. Mayawati knows the importance of being in power. With Rajnath having lost the chance, his "most backward-extreme Dalit" card will work to Mayawati's advantage. "This section of society will be added to Mayawati's votebank if it continues to be in power for some time," feels Rajiv Mishra, an advocate. The BSP's attempt to attract upper castes votes will go hand in hand with efforts to expand its base among its more natural constituencies. One can easily explain why Mayawati fielded more than 126 OBC candidates along with 95 belonging to the upper caste communities.
After two half-hearted attempts at forging a workable political alliance with the BSP, the BJP, with its upper caste bias, needs to change its attitude if the party genuinely wants the alliance to work this time. "We have come to a stage where the average BJP worker must start considering the average BSP worker as his natural ally," insists a BJP district president. The alliance would, however, be challenged the day Mayawati starts pursuing her Dalit agenda, he cautions.
It is this Dalit agenda that has started giving sleepless nights to many BJP activists. Interestingly, implementation of the SC/ST Act was the key factor that forced the BJP and the BSP to separate in 1997. More than 2,000 cases were registered against the upper caste BJP workers and some officers of the field formation. Most of the cases, it was found later, were false. The cases were registered to settle scores with an arrogant upper caste official or a BJP worker. The upper caste bias and resultant arrogance of a BJP worker was the root cause for separation in 1997. But, being a junior partner (nine less than BSP's strength of 97) in government this time, and an arrogant Kalyan Singh out of the party fold, the BJP should not only shed its upper caste bias but, must acknowledge the fact that it needs a strong ally in the state to counter resurgence of Sonia's Congress. With a section of disenchanted Brahmin BJP supporters almost certain to return to old love Congress, the BJP must project itself as a party that fetches votes from a cross-section of the society. The upper caste Dalit alliance ensures the emergence of a formidable electoral entity, capable of ruling the country for decades together.
Contrary to popular perception, the Muslim legislators of the BSP will remain intact with the party. "The 14 Muslim legislators may feel uneasy, but, the charm of being in power will be overwhelming for all of them," commented Umair Akhtar, a post-graduate student. He goes on to explain further that Mayawati has always guarded the interest of the community." She gave enough funds to madarsas and also introduced scholarship schemes for Muslim students," said Umair, a beneficiary and an ardent supporter of Mayawati. "More than Urdu in schools, we need enough funds to pursue our studies," he says, taking a dig at Samajwadi Party.
While the leaders of both the BJP and the BSP are discussing the minutest details of the alliance, the "Maya" effect is most visible in UP bureaucracy. An apprehensive bureaucracy is on tenterhooks fearing her style of functioning. "She is known for humiliating officers in public," commented a senior IAS officer. Mayawati's divisional meetings used to be a platform where district officials would be reprimanded in public. This step on the one hand had earned her wide applause from the masses and on the other it became a nightmare for the babus.
Mayawati is known for shuffling bureaucracy on a regular basis. She effected the largest number of administrative transfers during her previous tenure of six months. On an average, she shifted 100 officers a month when she became Chief Minister in 1995. A record number of 1,400 plus senior officers was transferred during her six-month rule in 1997. But, the alliance this time is taking care of the transfer policy, too. By the projections from both the sides, it appears that the "natural allies" (as described by Sunder Singh Bhandari) are keen to accommodate each other for more number of days and months than in 1997 and 1995.
The immediate gain for the BJP is 13 more MPs in the Lok Sabha. The BSP gets to keep Mulayam Singh out of power in UP. Both the parties seem to share the understanding that for a political system that is composed of multiple social groups and political identities, politics of accommodation is perhaps the only way to capture power. This is what is called the "Coalition Dharma." Both must adhere to this for long term gains.
Chandrabhan Prasad calculates social realities and says why the BSP is crucial to stopping Shudra Hindutva
Critics of a possible BSP-BJP coalition government have already sounded its death knell and withdrawn into the alert mode. "Opportunist, unprincipled and communal", they scream. Strangely, there isn't any palpable revulsion from either the Dalit or Muslim side, Mayawati's chunk voters, against the "unprincipled" coalition talks, given the unfortunate happenings in Gujarat. Media reports, too, suggest that average Muslims, who voted for BSP, are not too unhappy over Ms Mayawati's perceived "betrayal" in the cause of combating "Hindutva".
The resignation of Arif Muhammad Khan from the party has neither sparked any rebellion among Muslim MLAs, who won on a BSP ticket, nor is he being feted in Muslim localities. This has bewildered many a political commentator who thought that Muslims would not approve of such an alliance. They had even imagined a scenario where the 13 Muslim MLAs would actually leave the BSP even at the cost of being disqualified.
But how would the secular/Left/liberal lobby describe the BSP-BJP coalition in UP if it at all takes place and a government headed by Ms Mayawati is actually installed? The "unprincipled, opportunistic, power hungry" and ready to be "co-opted" Mayawati is allowing herself and her community to be used by Hindutva forces in their "project" to foster a "Hindu nationalistic regime" over secular India! The "Hindu nationalistic regime", they would argue, would restore the antiquated Brahminical Order [as if it has already been eliminated] which would herald a new era of Dalit subjugation and lead to the genocide of minorities.
The Gujarat riot would come in handy to justify their theoretical formulation, without realising the fact that the Dalits and Muslims of UP might be teaming up with Brahmins to combat the same social forces which wreaked havoc in Gujarat. Just as the secular/liberal brigade can never understand the social basis of communalism in Gujarat, they can never grasp the structural crises of UP society or the possible political realignments in the state.
I am reminded of my Teen Murti lecture of August 1997, where I presented a paper titled Social Changes in India Since Independence: a Dalit perspective. The late Ravindra Kumar was in the Chair and the House was full of secular/liberalists. The paper, backed by facts, argued that during the past five decades, the Dwijas had vacated rural India, its assets and institutions and moved over to urban India, establishing their monopoly over assets and institutions there. In 1950-51, the secondary and tertiary sectors contributed 44.5 percent to India's total GDP, and by 1993-94, the share of these two sectors had gone up to 70.20 percent. While in 1951, the urban population constituted 17.30 per cent of India's total population, it went up to 25.70 per cent by 1991. The decadal expansion of urban population in 1951-1961 was 43.20 per cent, followed by 25.30 per cent in 1961-1971. During the 1980s, the urban population expanded by 46.8 per cent. The paper argued that while the Dwijas tend to migrate to urban centres on a permanent basis, and at faster rate, vacating all their stakes in rural India, the Dalits and Shudras [read middle castes], tend to migrate to urban centres at a slower rate, that too temporarily. The Dwijas, who remain in rural India, become powerless as the social police [middle castes], become masters of rural assets and institutions. These changes, argued the paper, had decisively altered the nature of social contradictions in the countryside.
While by 1947, we talked about Dwijas versus the rest [Shudras and Dalits], by 1991, that battle was being waged between Dalits and upper Shudras in rural India. In urban India, there is a tussle between Dwijas and Dalits as the former control assets, institutions, in particular bureaucracy, centres of knowledge and the media. Educated Dalits confront Dwijas on a day-to-day basis. But, since the majority of Dalits (SCs 77.0, STs 90.02 per cent) live in rural India, they are confronted with the middle castes. Since Dwijas are politically upstaged by middle castes, they tend to join hands with Dalits to protect their political relevance. By another decade, say by 2011, these contradictions would have sharpened further and the Dalits and Dwijas, for their own separate reasons, would find themselves under a common political umbrella.
At the time I was delivering my lecture, the BJP-BSP coalition was ruling in UP. I concluded that the alliance, regulated by social realities, is just an indicator of the future politics of India. The secular/Left/liberal brigade got infuriated and thought that I was distorting the "Dalit perspective" and legitimising the "fascist upsurge" of Hindutva forces.
They became so unruly that Ravinder Kumar had to intervene and seek a logical counterpoint as my theory was backed by facts.The theme of my deliberations was published by The Economic Times in a six column report titled as "Dalits on the threshold of a new socio-political coalition" on August 16, 1997. Since then, the so-called secularists have been condemning the BSP for aligning with the BJP and running a campaign against me for legitimising that alliance. But they never ever convincingly explained why more and more Dalits were rallying behind the BSP and giving it a stature of a national party?
While the secular/liberals empty their Kingfisher bottles at IIC or IHC and see the BJP as a party of Hindutva forces, Dalits in UP see BJP as the party of Brahmins, who despite their ugly past, are now social moderators. The three socio-religious minorities-Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims-have for decades voted on one common election symbol. That coalition broke in 1990 when the Congress was seen hobnobbing with Mandal or the social fascist forces.
Dalits went to the BSP, the Brahmins sided with BJP and the Muslims, guided by Mandal forces, joined VP Singh's Janata Dal, whose entire legacy was inherited by Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party in UP. Since Mandal, all the above three minorities have been voting on three different election symbols, giving UP hung houses. Tired with their respective experiences, all the three minority groups now want to reunite politically.
The BJP has replaced Congress in UP, but is unable to foster a Congress-like social coalition. First, the BJP can't accommodate Muslims due its rabid anti-minoritism. In the RSS' religious project, Shudras who form the largest [above 46 per cent of India's total population] social group, are considered flag-bearers of Hinduism in the long run. The RSS is caught in a dilemma. The Brahmins' brand of Hinduism pertains to retaining basic features of the Chatur Varna order. To the Shudras, a violent anti-minority stance becomes a pre-requisite towards proclaiming its kind of Hinduism, or Hindutva, to define it correctly. The Shudras, particularly the upper layers, have historically claimed Kshatriyahood in the social realm and militant Hindutva in the religious realm. The Gujarat riots are a case in point. The Brahmins are not compatible with either promoting Shudras or accepting their brand of Hinduism. But, they are still with the BJP in UP as they have become suspicious of the Congress' hobnobbing with Mandal forces. The hand, has after all, held the Third Front governments at the Centre and continues to support Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar. Second, the "Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim" arrangement in the Congress wasn't negotiated in the sense of who would get what. Dalits and Muslims were reconciled to whatever the Brahmin leadership offered to them. Also, Dalits were aware of the fascist nature of the Lohia-Charan Singh led middle caste upsurge. So the Congress seemed a safe shelter.
But, the new Dalits in the 1980s began asking for more, which the Congress leadership could not understand. The Brahmin lobby within the BJP sensed what the Dalits were seeking. Hence the alliance with the BSP. But, a mere Brahmin-Dalit alliance is, electorally, not a winning combination. The BJP needs other social groups. Under the larger saffron umbrella, the Shudras and Brahmins are poised against each other. The BJP has to lose one of them, and in the just concluded Assembly elections in UP, it lost the Shudras.
The Brahmin lobby is now attempting a novel social script. Under this project, the BSP is to bring along a sizeable section of Muslims, and artisan-Shudras while Brahmins themselves will retain Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, and thus end UP's hung House syndrome. This can halt the march of Shudras and their Hindutva.
Under the political leadership of Mayawati, the ideological leadership of Brahmins will remain. As for the ideological plan, the political power and its resultant benefit will be shared with Dalits and Muslims.
For Muslims, it is difficult to associate with the BJP. The face-saving formula has come in form of BSP, a subway to reach the Brahmin-Dalit platform. It is precisely for this reason that neither the Muslim voter, nor the MLA, has reacted adversely.
Social realities in the cow belt are regulating political arrangement, and Mayawati is emerging moderator. Those who do not want to understand this changing nature of social contradictions in UP, are not theoretically organised enough to correctly comment on the polity. It is indeed ironic that while we live in a Varna/caste based social order, political parties are not willing to consider caste-based contradictions. What is happening in UP is inevitable. So instead of condemning the main players, let us appreciate the choices people are making.
If the Shudras are not checked in UP and Bihar, the Muslims of this region may have to experience a Gujarat-like scenario by year 2050. Always remember, after establishing their economic and political control, Shudras tend to seek social power, turn ultra-Brahminical, and target Dalits. Once they establish their social hegemony, the seek control over Hinduism and thus, the Shudra Hinduism turns into Hindutva.