The new Bahujan alliance in UP:  A challenge to the neo-liberal Hindutva forces

akhilesh yadav mayawati

 Co-Written by Badre Alam and Sanjay Kumar

The recent press conference which was addressed by jointly the BSP chief Mawawati and the SP president Akhilesh Yadav in the Lucknow on 12th Jan 2019 is to be considered as a historical and futuristic in nature, ahead of the 2019 general election. This alliance tries to put-forward the new phase of radical Dalit-Bahujan politics against the neo-liberal Hindutva opportunistic electoral politics.

It is to be remembered that during the height of the post Babri masjid communal politics, (known infamously as Kamandal politics-I), the first historic alliance between the SP-BSP had came together in 1993.  As a result of this, for the first time they had politically and ideologically defeated the RSS-BJP combined led Hindutva politics in 1993 in UP assembly election. To note that famous radical slogan given by the alliance, such as Mile Mulayam Kanshiram Huwa Mein udd Gaya Jai Shiri Ram ( Mulayam and Kanshi Ram have came together, blowing way the cries of ‘victory to Ram’).

It has to be noted that similar kind of political and social conditions are created by the RSS-BJP led Modi’s government at the centre since 2014 by continuous attacks on the idea of India and ethos of Indian constitution, take for instance by given 10 percent reservation mainly to woo upper-castes votes against the philosophy of ‘social justice’ and ‘self-representations’ which are enshrined in our democratic constitutions.

Keeping this in mind, the recent historic SP-BSP alliance  now gearing up to strongly challenge the ‘Hindutva juggernaut’ ideologically and electorally in the upcoming 2019  general elections and beyond. The current alliance should not be seen only in terms of mere an ‘electoral calculation’ (while try to learn the lesson from experiences of 1993 UP state election), but this time the SP-BSP historic alliance is made against the Hundutva juggernaut as both BSP supreme Mayawati and Akhilesh hinted at, while foregrounding the substantive socio-economic issues, such as education, employment, agrarian crisis, communalism, neo-liberal capitalism, gender rights etc. during in conversation with Media persons during the press conference.

The current SP–BSP alliance is also trying to maintain some distance with the Congress for presence of ‘Soft-Handutva’ elements in the party. And therefore, it would be mistake to think that idelogical stand of the Congress party with respect to the neo- liberal economic policies is much different from the BJP-RSS combine. That is why; Mayawati and Akhilesh have made this point that we are not having alliance this time with the congress party.

In short, the current SP-BSP alliance leaders remind us that now it is time to return once again towards the radical ideology Bahujan icons (like Phule, Periyar, Baba Seheb Ambedka etc.), to build up the unity among Bahujan oppressed in the time of neo-liberal Hindutva.

First SP-BSP alliance in 1993

It has to be remembered that experience of 1993 is a historic in many since because thi electoral experiment had stoped the ‘Hindutva juggernaut’ during the height of post- Babri masjid communal politic. After more than two decades have been passed, once again the SP-BSP alliance in recent by-polls like Phulpur and Gorakhpur and finally in Kairana Lok Sabha constituencies in 2018 (It is to be remembered that Gorakhpur was the earlier constituency of current UP CM Yogi Adityanath where he was elected M.P in 2014) have demonstrated that we could jointly defeat the Hindutva forces, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. On the basis of earlier experiments, one can underlined that if the current SP-BSP alliance incorporates the radical vision of Dr. Ambedkar and including Kanshi Ram concept of larger ‘Bahujan unity’ has a ‘radical potential’ to stop once again the BJP-RSS combine communal politics in the public and political domain. In 1993 for instance, the BSP alone had contested 164 UP assembly seats and won 67, while the SP had contested 256 seats and got victory over 109. After that the government was formed, and Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav had became the chief minister of UP.

The experiment of 1993 could be possibly repeated onece again, if vote percent of the SP-BSP will combine together, it will definitely pose major potential challenge to the BJP in 2019 parliamentary polls. To note that when the Modi’s wave was at its peak, in 2014, the BJP secured 42.30 per cent vote share in UP. But if see the combined total of  the SP ( vote percent 22.2 percent) and the BSP (19.60 percent) vote share in 2014, it will reached up to 42.30 percent.   However, for widening and sharpening the electoral base, the current SP-BSP alliance must also forge electoral unity with other marginalized caste and communities in UP and elsewhere too.  The recent alignment with SP- BSP alliance by the RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) should be considered as welcome step. One cannot deny the fact that if current political chemistry remains successful onece again as happened in the past, then it will make a huge impact in terms of electoral outcome and securing more seats in 2019 general elections.

It has to be here remembered that during the height of Hindutva politics, the BSP leader Kanshi Ram had tried hard to create cultural and political movement by uniting Bahujan masses (which constitute more than 85 percent of population belonging to Dalits, OBCs and converted religious minorities) during the post-Mandal politics. More importantly, Kanshi Ram led Bahujan leaders had coined the several revolutionary slogans like ‘Jiski Jitni Hisedari uski untni bhagidari’, ‘vote hamara raj tumahara nahi chelega nahi chelega’ and ‘jo zameen sarkari hai  wo zameen hamari hai’, to create formidable challenge before the RSS-BJP led idea of ‘ Cultural nationalism ‘in the post -Mandal politics. Through the inclusive social, cultural and political vision, Kanshi Ram had tried to create larger social and political unity among SCs/STs, OBCs and including converted minorities under the umbrella of ‘Bahujan’ as a larger ‘political identity’ to articulate the interest of subaltern masses  in the public and political sphere. In the light of these experiments, we argue that the SP-BSP alliance must in current political context draw some lesson and try to carry forward the rich legacy of Baba Seheb  Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram’s larger vision of ‘Social  transformation’.

The threat of the neo-liberal Hindutva

Since the BJP came into power in 2014 at the centre, the attacks on Dalits, minorities, student’s activist and Human right activists and toiling masses etc. continued unabated. The decisions like demonetization and GST and waving of huge corporate loans etc. have further accelerated the economic problems and leading to destruction of unorganized sector and growing unemployment and poverty. Besides, there are increasing crisis of autonomous public institutions like CBI, RBI and attacks on universities reservation policies and credibility of the judicial process to perform their duties according to ethos of the Indian constitution.

It is to be noted that current Hindutva forces have also build up direct nexus with crony- capitalist forces.  While doing so, they have reduced the welfare schemes and other positive welfare measures which were earlier somehow adopted by the Nehruvian version of socialist State. In this respect, government bodies and civil society groups have clearly underlined that contrary to the tall promises made by PM Modi namely by coining slogan like sabka sath sabka vikas;  and development of all and appeasement of non, the government has utterly failed to addressed the basic human rights of concern citizens.

Contrary to the claims of the BJP leaders, recently US commission on international and religious freedom (USCRIF) report has underlined that religious minorities and India’s Dalits continue to face discriminations because of the forced conversion and hate crimes etc. which have increased tremendously since the BJP’s government came to power in 2014.

Even the government department’s data also indicated that, 17 percent communal violence has been increased in 2015 in compare to 2014. As for as the crisis of employment is concern, the centre for monitoring of Indian economy (CMIE) has also reported that more two crore Indians have lost their jobs in 2018. And numbers of unemployment’s have been growing in the country, added report.  According to the National Commission of Safai Karamchari (NCSK), one person has died every five days on an average, while cleaning sewers and safety tank across the nation.

In name of the Swach Bharat Abhyan, to note that Modi government further cuts the fourth grade employees like Safai Karam Chari jobs by reducing the permanent employment into contractual jobs.  After the death of Safai Karamcharis during the cleaning severe, there is a violations of basic human rights and no proper compensational and rehabilitations of the concerns victim families.

New phase of SP-BSP alliance

While addressing the recent press conference, on the historic occasion of the SP-BSP alliances in Lucknow on 12th Jan 2019, Mayawati has put forwarded the broader agenda and said that current alliance is a historic in sense that it will not only confine to 2019 parliamentary polls but also continue to remain effective in future and upcoming state election too. Besides, she has also talked about the several issues like communalism, unemployment, gender justice, attacks on minorities and Dalits, issues of the reservation, agrarian crisis and problems of tribals and inclusive notion of development etc. And more importantly, she categorically said that this alliance is committed to fight against the RSS-BJP led corporate neo-liberal Hindutva politics.

However, on the basis of past accounts of the SP-BSP politics when they had enjoyed the state power, several scholars have commented critically which need to be look at this juncture as well.

A noted human right activist and scholar like Anand Teltumbde (in his recent book, Republic of Caste: Thinking equality in the time of Neo-liberal Hindutva, 2018) has underlined shortcomings of the social justice parties including the Ambedkarite forces by saying that whenever they have had captured the State power, fact remains that they have utterly failed to addressed the substantive socio-economic issues of Bahujan masses.  In other words, the SP and BSP in the past have also not completely adopted the Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s vision of ‘social transformation’ and mainly his agenda of ‘Annihilation of caste’ as underlined by Teltumbde in his writings.

Besides highlighting the lower-caste politics in terms of deepening and widening democratic politics after the Mandal politics in north India, a noted French scholar Christophe Jafferlot (in his famous book Indian’s silent revolution; the Rise of low caste in North India, 2014) has also noted that under the so-called pretext of ‘Quota politics’ whenever social justice parties captured state power, it would be not incorrect to say that they have also not properly addressed the socio-economic problems of Bahujan masses, but remain to confine, fulfill their own caste and family interest. Take for instance, when Mr. Lalu Persad and Mulayam Singh became chief minister of the respective states like Bhihar and UP, they had not done substantially to address the material questions of the oppressed Bahujan masses, highlighted by Jafferlot.

While discussing the programmes which are launched by RSS-VHP combine to consolidate and unite the Hindus, Jafferlot has also reminded us that through the programme like sanskrtisation (this concept is initially given by noted sociologist Prof. M.N Srinivas, where he talked about how  usually the upper caste food habits, culture and ways of life, adopted by lower castes to get upward mobility),the Hindu nationalist forces had have managed to’ saffronise’ the section of lower caste and Dalits in U.P and elsewhere too. This could be observed when sections of lower caste and Dalits have also shifted towards Hindu Right and voted to Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha election particularly in UP and other north India region.

One could argue that due to the lack of fraternal social relationship at the cultural and societal level, in UP Dalits and lower caste is not converted into the larger category called Bahujan as a ‘political community’. That is why; the intra-subaltern, caste–conflict within Bahujan has not been properly addressed in spite of capturing political power in UP several times by the BSP and SP respectively. In a nutshell, for the articulation of the lager vision of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, it is essential to democratize social relationship within the intra-groups like OBCs and Dalits in the social and cultural sphere too. The gross roots realities reflect that in the context of U.P the dominant OBCs communities have had maintained unequal hierarchical relationship with Dalits in every day socio-economic and cultural life. In this respect, Dr. Ambedkar had reminded us in his radical Text, like Annihilation of caste, ‘history bears out the proposition that political revolutions have always been preceded by Social and religious revolutions’.

In the light of above mentioned points, it is argue that the task ahead for the current alliance is to how can democratize intra-subaltern relations and conceptualize the lager Bahujan as a ‘political community’ to pose the challenge and thereby stop the communal forces once again in 2019 general election as Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh together had did in1993 particularly during height of communal politics around Babri Masjid in UP.

The Kanshir Ram believes that  for the socio-economic advancement of the Bahujan masses, “political power’’ as he reiterated several times while addressing public meeting, is the master key by which any lock (obstacle) can be open. Secondly, he also emphasized that the ideological and political struggle must be launched to achieve the broader agenda of ‘social justice’ and self -respect for the Bahujan masses in the Indian society. To be very precise, the past experiences have replete with both conflicts and co-operations within Bahujan forces. However, the real challenge before the current SP-BSP alliance is to how can politically sharpen and sustain this alliance in the long run. This will be only possible when intra-subaltern caste relationship could be democratized and idea of ‘social fraternity’ must be established amongst the subaltern masses. However in case of UP and elsewhere to, the caste is still considered as the dominant identity and its function as a ‘graded inequality’ the point which Ambedkar had also noted long ago. That is why Dr. Ambedkar eventually arrived at the agenda of complete ‘Annihilation of caste’. And Baba Seheb Ambedkar said, ‘for the successful revolution, it is not enough that there is discontent what is required is a profound and through conviction of justice, necessarily and importance of political and social rigs’.

It is to be remembered that recent Dalit uprisings like Rohith Vemula, Una agitation, Bhim army and 2nd April ‘Bharat Bandh’ against the dilution of SCs/STs atrocities Act etc. have been taken place and  that is why Dalit movements became more radical in the  last more than four years of BJP rule. In this political scenario, if the current SP-BSP alliance wants to sustain for the longer time must foreground the issues raised by Dalit movements in their political struggle against the communal forces in the upcoming general election 2019.

To conclude here, while addressing the press conference both Mayawati and Akhilesh have underlined that during the current regime of BJP’s government the problems and issues concerning to the Bahujan masses in all fronts have been completely bypassed. That is why both have said that current political scenario can be seen as an ‘undeclared emergency’ imposed by the current political dispensation. However, the point is that agenda of ‘Annihilation of caste’ has not been clearly outlined by them. Keeping the critical insights underlined by scholars and earlier political experience in mind (recall first alliance in1993), this time too in our view in spite of limitations, the current SP-BSP has a ‘political ingredients’ to stop the ‘Hindutva juggernaut’.

In short, while  taking into consideration the past experiments, the current SP-BSP political alliance must seriously considered once again the radical ideas of the Bahujan icons like Phule, Periyar, Dr. Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, and incorporate their egalitarian visions into the ‘political fight’  ahead of the 2019 general elections.

 Badre Alam is a Ph.D Candidate at Department of political science, University of Delhi and Sanjay Kumar is a post- doctoral fellow at JNU



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