The ‘Divide and Rule’ clause of Indian ‘Democracy’
The much-awaited results of the state elections are out. The ‘Éxit Pollsters’ who went wrong in Bihar are thumping their chests and claiming ‘victory’ claiming invention of a new ‘PK’. The SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab was voted out of power from Punjab while the existing chief ministers of Uttarakhand and Goa faced humiliating defeats. In Manipur, Erom Sharmila, the symbol of people’s protest against Armed Forces Special Power Act, was able to get just 91 votes. In the past too, many, intellectuals, activists have lost miserably from the constituencies they worked for people tirelessly and it shows how hollow are our ‘democratic’ values and that it is still true that people suffer but they still love the oppressors. But the mother of all battles was Uttar Pradesh where the saffron upsurge has even surprised their own team though many editors’ had predicted victory for BJP in advance. Now the Election Commission data show that BJP got 39.7% of votes which resulted in 312 seats in Uttar Pradesh while BSP’s share remained 22% but the seats got drastically came down to 20. It is also a reality that 60% voters still have not voted for BJP but that is the reality as Uttar Pradesh always had the government in merely 29-30% vote share. Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance too got nearly 26% of the votes but in could not convert them into seats and that is the crisis of First Past the Post System which needs to be questioned and challenged now. The political parties must now talk about a political system which can claim to legitimately represent the voter’s mind where majority votes do not get unrepresented.
EVM rigging charges
BSP President Ms Mayawati wrote a letter to Election Commission that the EVMs were tempered as such a clean sweep was nearly impossible as in many places of Muslim dominance BJP won the elections. While doubts about EVM need to be thoroughly investigated by the election commission as there have been allegations of tampering of the machine in earlier elections too. It is important for political parties like BSP, Samajwadi Party, Congress, Janata Dal, RJD, left parties and others to join hand and launch a campaign against such attempt to manipulate things. It is important that the elections for State Assemblies should not be allowed to go for such a long period. For two months there are no administration in the states going for poll, similarly Lok Sabha polls too for two to three months and it is time we must find way out to reduce that apart from that the issue of the electronic voting machine must be addressed. Even BJP’s national spokesperson Dr G V L Narsimharao wrote a book, ‘Democracy at Risk : Can we trust our Electronic Voting Machines’ in 2010 in which the introduction is written by Shri L K Advani where they demanded a ‘Voter verified Paper Audit Trail ( VVPAT) system’ to be in place so that the voter can see in print the vote he casted. In fact, many Whatsapp messages had come where it was said that the Supreme Court ordered for this system to be installed at all the booths but it seems it was not there. I have no idea of where the Supreme Court thing came but I am told Mr Waman Meshram had filed a case against the EVM and this decision was part of it. Maybe more details are needed on this.
Difference between statement and communication
So, I will stand for a strict vigilance and investigation of EVMs but I will not deny how political parties claiming to be secular ones, for whom, we put our entire efforts, failed to people. Unlike RSS, which investigate, has kept numerous people as think tank, the parties we have been supported never needed any intellectual or independent mindset. They needed loudspeakers who can promote their leaders. Ofcourse, there was a PR exercise going on part of the BJP which created a Modi wave but RSS and its allied organisations have serious people with them who plan and discuss things. A fascist organisation is more democratic than most of the democratic parties in India and that is where the time has come to focus on. Why our political leaders want those ‘intellectuals’ who could justify their political line rather than point out to gaps and inadequacies of the party. A number of them started their own media but none can claim that those magazines or journals really were creating debate and discussion among people. They were merely information and reports of the speeches and meetings of ‘leaders’. There was always contempt for intellectuals and social activists terming them as ‘non-political’ arm chair people as if they have no relations with people or they don’t know understand the political dynamics of the region. In the name of intellectuals’, the parties promoted Public Relations exercise to promote their leaders on the style of Modi and Kejriwal but the fact is both Modi and Kejriwal are public speakers and can speak with eye contact, communicate with people in their language even if that look boring and idiotic but people jumped at them.
During this elections, I was in Varanasi and in this phase, I came to Deoria but I can say convincingly that most of the people that we make our opinions are already opinionated to their party or leaders positions hence judging the moods of the voters for them is very difficult. Till afternoon, we had seen numerous posts on Facebook that Exit Polls will fail as it happened in Bihar but I must share this with you that I was apprehensive of this from very beginning. I know in today’s time people don’t speak politically incorrect statements and therefore they mislead others.
Failure to reach beyond particular castes
I have spoken for unity among the various caste groups in Uttar Pradesh but merely that would not succeed if we are not seeking ideologically similar people. Working on merely identity-based thing will not bring desired results as if the vast Bahujan masses have to succeed in this first past the post system politics then it is time for a serious thought for a mutually acceptable socio-political programme for long. The raging debate of identity politics and then so called class politics was the debate of extreme viewpoints which never merged and only strengthened the Sangh Parivar. We must understand that our villages are hugely different than the University campuses where students come together on class-caste lines. I have seen people succumbing to caste pressure.
One of a very known acquaint in Kushinagar who used to be a proud follower of BSP and had contested on its ticket for Zila Parishad, used to speak of Baba Saheb, BAMSCEF actually shifted to BJP once Swami Prashad Maurya left the party. It was not shocking for me as I have seen people who would shout against ‘manuwad’ but when political opportunism comes they shift their loyalty very easily. It was shocking for me. In fact, so enraged was I that I decided to not speak to him during this trip. But there is a fact that a vast chunk of Kushwahas and Mauryas shifted to BJP because of top leadership of the party ignoring them.
I had seen the trends and was apprehensive when I spoke to people other than the traditional BSP voters. The caste polarisation was so high that I was shocked to hear that an entire Mushahar village voted to BJP because the Samajwadi Party had fielded a Muslim candidate who had definitely done much better work in his constituency. BJP was able to polarise it with the communities like Mushahars who had nothing to do with urbanised Hindu-Muslim issue. BSP as usual ditched its old hand and gave ticket to a ‘sunar’ who was a ‘vote-katua’ for Samajwadi Party. The old hand of the BSP who did not get ticket here then joined BJP and worked towards defeat of both the Samajwadi and the BSP.
Unable to control anti-Muslim sentiments among local workers
In many places where Muslim candidates were fielded by Samajwadi Party the local leadership did not work for them. I was surprised to hear from friends that they asked their supporter to vote for BJP as they did not get the ticket. Trying to fix up an equation and defending a long time candidate are the important thing.
Our friend Khalid Anees Ansari had been speaking about the unity of Pasmanda Muslims with Bahujan Samaj but unfortunately, those who play secular communal binary don’t understand the aspiration of the Pasmanda Muslims growing up and getting a different perception even in the form of voting to BJP. Fact is at many places the contradiction of Pasmandas with the elite leadership was used by the RSS and its sympathisers. Friends from Ghazipur suggested that any places Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance people asked voters to vote for BJP rather than Mukhtar Ansari. On the day before the results, a local reporter who happened to be a Brahmin came and asked me as what is my opinion about Uttar Pradesh. I said, ‘ I am afraid we will have a coalition government’. He asked me about western Pradesh to which I said I am not sure but felt BJP might lose due to Jat resentment. I asked him about the local situation in Deoria and he said, BJP will win all. He said that even the poor Muslims have voted for BJP. I asked him how was it possible. He told me what was alarming. There was a land crisis between the upper caste Muslims and the poor Muslims but the local Samajwadi candidate who happened to be a Muslim, sided with the upper caste Muslims, hence the lower class Muslims decided to support BJP as we all stood with them and expressed our solidarity. The day after, I had a Muslim friend from Maharajganj, who came to see me with his ‘BJP’ friend. I am not surprised to see the middle-class Muslim elite shifting to BJP perhaps thinking that there is no other option than making a useful alliance with them. Last year during the Zila Parishad’s election, the Kalandar Muslims, who are one of the most isolated communities, lost their livelihood, yet major Muslim leadership don’t even know that they exists, refused to welcome a Samajwadi Party leader in their locality because of his attitude. The victims of Muzaffarnagar violence are mostly the poor Muslims yet their voices are not getting heard in the entire political discourse. BJP has mixed Mandal with Kamandal and made a great cocktail of it which is now lethal because the so-called social justice wallahs failed to address the issue of Pasmanda Muslims and need for Mandalisation of Muslim community in India to strengthen the Bahujan movement. While I feel being Muslim today has become the biggest issue in India as in the absence of an inclusive Bahujan movement, any attempt to address Muslim issues separately gives handsome returns to the Hindutva forces. I have been speaking about it for long that most of the seats where Muslims used to have their MPs and were Muslim dominated have failed to send their MPs. Uttar Pradesh has fairly large number of Muslim dominated areas but the result is places like Aligarh, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Bijnaur, Meerut, Sambhal, Agra, Deoband are not sending Muslim leaders to either Assembly or Parliament and most of the time it is the BJP which has won these seats. Hindu-Muslim binary is going to play a big role in the growth of Hindutva in India. The ‘secular’ parties did not take Muslims more than en-bloc votes hence their issues never got resolved. BJP raised the issue of triple talaq and rather than speaking as what Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar said during the Constituent Assembly debates, Ms Mayawati called it, an internal matter of Muslims while Samajwadis and Congress have no issue. Congress faced the Shahbano brunt and yet it refused to learn. If secularism has to stand in India, it has to be aggressively opposing all those regressive forces who want to deny women their rights. On the Triple Talaq issue BJP would look much more progressive than the ‘secular’ parties who are neither secular nor liberal at all as they only appeased the religious orthodoxy rather than addressing the issue of the communities. To think that all the Muslims do not demand justice and want only religious leadership to thrive and justify every discrimination in the name of Islam, would not work for sure.
FPTP or divide and Rule politics
This First Past the Post democracy has made Muslim the biggest ‘villain’ in the entire electoral exercise. The sad part is that democracy which we are celebrating today is actually disenfranchising Muslim community as their representation is reduced regularly. The 19% Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have merely 24 legislatures in 403 member assembly, a drastic reduction from 64 MLAs during the last assembly. The 321 member strong Hindutva party never found a single Muslim leader to contest on the elections in Uttar Pradesh shows how much they care for Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas.
Three days back, when I participated at a programme on International Women’s Day, a woman from Nishad community asked me to help her get ration card and land entitlement. The Block Development Officer had come that day. When he left the venue, I asked her, as who did she vote? We voted to Modi said she along with some other women. I told her angrily, then ask Modi to get you your land and water rights. In the Mushahar basti, most of the vote went to BJP as the Samajwadis themselves did not campaign for their Muslim candidate and BSP has given ticket to a person who was a new entry, denying ticket to an old veteran who had worked for party for long. Such situation arose everywhere and leaders of the parties converted this battle into Hindu and Muslim crisis. Fact is that secular formations are not really secular and for them Muslims are just an attachment otherwise whenever the ‘secular formations’ gave ticket to Muslims, the local ambitious non-Muslim leaders preferred BJP instead of their party. It is the biggest scandal of democracy. BJP has succeeded in Hinduising the Indian polity and Muslims are paying the biggest price for it.
The huge mandate that the Hindutva party is claiming and that the paid Brahmanical media is now glorifying is defeat of idea of India where India’s second majority stand completely ruined politically ‘legitimately’ through a ‘democratic’ process and that is the biggest crisis of the ‘colonial’ ‘democracy’ which we inherited. It is democracy of the ‘divide and rule’. The British used it yet they were far superior but today’s narrow communal minds are using it to disempower India’s most marginalised people.
Impact Poona Pact
Just a few weeks back, I wrote story of a Dalit leader contesting on BJP ticket canvassing with a separate glass in his hand and touching the feet of even the younger people half of his age. He belonged to Valmiki community who did not get any serious efforts from the BSP as the party never really provided any space to Valmikis. The man contesting from Iglas near Hatharas, has won the seat in the name of Scheduled Caste but he is a humiliation for the community. How can such leaders who justify caste discrimination in the name of customs and traditions can bring self-respect among their community. The man who won the election from Iglas constituency in Hatharas at the cost of his community’s self-respect should be called as the outcome of Poona Pact. BSP and like-minded parties in the Bahujan movement raised these issues but forgot once they were in power. It is time we challenge the system, speak up openly and ask for change in electoral system. Today, there will be 17% Dalits and 7.5% Adivasis but all of them will be the leaders after Poona Pact. The Hindutva has revived it. They would only love those Dalits who remain stooges of brahmanical system, who go suggesting that caste system is great and they are following the tradition.
So it is time for serious introspection. The first point is about the outreach of Bahujan parties to diverse communities, which is beyond one numerically powerful communities, second, the issues that they raise and whether identity alone will be able to carry or whether ideology matters or not. I am sure, Ambedkarite will vouch that the country does not need Harijan leadership that the brahmanical parties are pushing as an alternative in the name of ‘honest’ and casteless individuals but assertive Ambedkarite leadership which can stand on its own and speak up against all forms of discrimination and provide justice to the community. Third, it is time to demand proportionate electoral system and discuss the issue seriously. Fourth, provide space to dissenting intellectuals and build a long term programme. Fifth, trying to develop a common minimum agenda which transcends beyond caste and religious boundaries like Land Reform, Common School System, strengthening Public Health and Public Distribution System, Housing for all are the issues which we must have an opinion and it attract to all. That apart, it won’t work to abuse all particularly those who are supporting progressive ideas in support of annihilation of caste and empowerment of the marginalised communities. We will have to find like-minded people of other communities including those who have come out from their higher caste background and want to work for the betterment of society through Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, Bhagat Singh’s thoughts.
The Way Out
Uttar Pradesh election results are depressing but it has given us opportunity to build ourselves from the ground, introspect and face the challenge. Question is not that India has suddenly become casteist but how the ‘secular’ parties actually provided enough ammunition to the Hindutva’s communal forces to misuse or misinterpret their failures. It is time for aggressive secularism with anti-caste system agenda and promoting the liberal ideas, making space among the opinion classes and build up our leadership from the grassroots. There is no time for narrow, parochial ideas which thrive on weakness of others but the programme and agenda for future which can attract diverse communities. Remember, people are not ready to listen to same chanting they have been hearing for years as they are demanding agenda for future. Time has also come to democratise our own parties and organisations, speak up against corruption, nepotism and gender discrimination as failure to do so resulted in many of friends shifting to Hindutva’s camp. It is time for a wider agenda to protect the idea of inclusive India which our constitutional forefathers had envisaged but our current generations of political leaders completely failed for their petty interests and ambitions. Uttar Pradesh results should be taken as an opportunity to build new secular liberal and inclusive anti-caste leadership with a vision for future who can provide an alternative module of development to current parochial brahmanical Hindutva leadership. If Indian democracy is unable to accept and provide representation in its structure to the vast Muslim population and if they continue to become the issue of polarisation, then it is time for a serious thought. It is time to discuss this issue politically. How long will this democracy be made a tool to totally disempower Muslims at all level? If our polls continue to do this, some people might become larger than life but that democracy would be a sham democracy. But then these hours will be the most important period of independent India where we now have the biggest challenge to counter the communal agenda. Winning elections does not mean they have got legitimacy on everything. In America the media is still fighting for the democratic space and liberal plural values which are under the threat, in India, media is completely sold out and surrendered shamelessly, hence the duty to carry on the idea of secular, liberal and inclusive India now depend on those enlightened activists whose language the people have failed to understand yet we should not lose our heart out as the battle for an enlightened India is not yet over, it has started now.