Ramvilas Paswan, a senior minister in the Modi cabinet passed away due to a heart illness on Thursday. Members across the political spectrum bid a farewell to this leader who hails from Bihar. However, what was striking to me as a journalist was the manner in which various media outlets ran the story of Paswan’s passing away. Not to my surprise the common thread among almost all newspapers and television channels is the loss of a weather vane Dalit leader who was part of the cabinets of six different prime ministers.

The Savarna liberal notion of democracy which puts the burden over the Bahujans to defeat fascism and whose commitment to the cause is put under a constant scanner while not questioning the Savarnas who form, fund and idealise fascism is exposed again by the responses to the passing away of Mr Paswan.

Paswan had been pivotal in the VP Singh regime, which had against all the odds, placed the Mandal Commission report on the tables of the houses which for the first time after the Poona Pact and Hindu Code Bill, laid bare the Brahmanical ideological underpinnings of Indian democracy.

The liberal notion of democracy was not under threat when Rajiv Gandhi as Leader of Opposition said during the debate on the Mandal Commission in the Parliament that ‘the way in which (the) Mandal Commission report is being implemented is breaking up my country’.

Paswan was also phenomenal in the passing of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 1989 while he was the minister for labour and welfare in the VP Singh cabinet.

To hide the hollow political stance of liberal democratic parties like the Congress and the old socialist bloc, which failed to understand the aspirations of the Dalits and the marginalized, and unable to cobble up a strong alliance against the fascists, the saviours of the liberal democracy would question the nepotism of Paswan, his political decisions to side with BJP as if that had caused the terrible shift in Indian politics in 2014.

Another glaring characteristic of the vilification of Paswan is the critics have failed to at least compliment him for grasping the ground realities of the game much faster than any national leaders. Without questioning the hierarchy of Indian democracy which is still Savarna by nature after 70 years of Independence, testing the political correctness of Paswan or any Dalit or Bahujan leader will not help in forming a front against the fascists. It exposes the crisis of the Brahmanic opposition fighting a Hindutva rule when the former could not accommodate the interests of Dalits and Bahujans within the front and in its programme and blame the very few Dalit Bahujan leaders in the national arena who rose to the ranks despite severe hurdles irrespective of their political inclinations.

The Bahujans have lost a voice, a reassurance to them dating back to the VP Singh era.

Rest in power, Paswanji.

Joel Thomas Mathews is an Independent Journalist


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