The Congress Party’s ideological steps remind us of a famous saying of Lenin “ One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward’ not in a tactical sense of retreating and advancing with a progressive strategy in a given unfavourable political environment, but retreating in a more consistent manner with blindfolded vision. The present crisis is much bigger for the party than that it faced in the 1970s, with the JP movement, emergency and formation of the Janata Party that overthrew the party.
The rise of the Bharatiya Janatha Party under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in 2014 created a most difficult and unfavourable political environment that the grand old party with a huge history of experience of conducting movements and running administration for decades.
It appears that the top leadership does not have the political stamina and capabilities to face the unexpected turn of events one after the other. Most of its old top leaders, Sonia Gandhi, Man Mohan Singh and P.Chidambaram and so on have no experience of mass mobilization in their life time or conducting any agitations. But they controlled power for ten years during the UPA period. Man Mohan Singh and Chidambaram were in power during P.V.Narsimha Rao period also. But they had no grass root experience and never involved in the mass mobilization. The present BJP, on the other hand, have many who worked at the ground level, of course, with negative ideology of the Sangh system.
The Congress got largest number of seats, though less than 50 per cent. in 2004 and 2009 because of weak BJP under Vajpayee and L.K Advani because they also did not think of addressing the caste question. Under their control over the BJP structures, the opinion was that discussion on caste was negative and harmful. Now that understanding changed in the BJP structures, to a large extent.
The BJP used the caste card more skillfully than the Congress in 2014 elections and continues to do so. It won two elections with full majority very easily. The Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are roped in as the backbone of the BJP vote power. But their communal agenda, that constantly puts the Muslims and Christians in spot, is creating negative environment, which is likely to create major crisis in the deeply globalized economy. The response of the Muslim and Christian world to the recent Masjid-Mandir issues has a potential to disrupt the economy and the society. But the Congress is still in its blindfolded anti-OBC agenda. Hence it is likely to lose 2024 election as well.
The anxiety of the nation as to what will happen in 2024 could be seen everywhere. But that anxiety does not seem to bother the Congress intellectual leaders who ruled India through Rajya Sabha for several decades.
In this background the Congress held a Chintan Shibir at Udaipur. It created some hope with some new declarations. Of which the social justice, one family one post and two term limit to Rajya Sabha nomination were very significant.
But within few days the ten nominations for the Rajya Sabha have shown that all the three declarations were violated. Of the ten seats seven were given to Dwija (top upper ) castes. The list is here under:
1. P Chidambaram – Shettiar, Dwija
2. Jairam Ramesh – Brahmin, Dwija
3. Rajeev Shukla – Brahmin, Dwija
4. Pramod Tiwari – Brahmin, Dwija
5. Ajay Maken – Khatri, Dwija
6. Vivek Tankha – Kayastha, Dwija
7. Ranjeet Ranjan – Khatri, Dwija
8. Imran Pratapgarhi – Muslim
9. Randeep Surjewala – Jat, upper Shudra
10. Mukul Wasnik – Dalit
Even if we consider Ranjeet Ranjan as an OBC as she is Pappu Yadav’s wife, six are given to the Dwijas. However, no OBC in the country considers her to be their representative.
Look at the way two of its intellectual senior most leaders, P.Chidambaram and Jayaram Ramesh, violated two declarations of Udaipur–one family one post and two term- Rajya Sabha nomination. Jayaram Ramesh is an all time Rajya Sabha ruler and the party’s known intellectual face, without showing any understanding of the history of caste system. He also does not seems to be interested in checkmating the BJP. He againt became a Rajya Sabha law maker.
Chidambaram is a leader who seems to think that without he being in the house the Indian parliament would not be able make laws, deliberate ideas on economy. But Modi said in many election campaigns that ‘hard work not Harvard’ should rule India. The Shudra/OBCs who represent the agrarian hard work seem to believe Modi and do not read the unending columns of Chidambram in English media. The direction is clear. Many OBC youth understand the meaning of hard work vs Harvard now. Chidambaram’s son is already an MP and has not shown any new wisdom in the parliament, worse facing money laundering cases time and again.
Why did they accept this renomination if they are really serious about the party’s future? These two leaders have the ability to get anything in such a weakened party structure. Could not they have promoted two young leaders from grass roots by sidestepping? They do not recognize caste as a institutional reality. But the BJP recognizes and the people are responding. Greater education seems to make leaders more blind to social reality. Their writings are a living testimony for their caste blind intellectualism, which will never help to revive the party.
Chidambaram has taken many decisions when he was Home and Fiance Minister that the BJP uses to their advantage today. Chidambaram declared that the Telangana state will be granted when K.Chandrasekhar Rao was in hunger strike, which has gone in his favour. The Congress lost power once for all in Telangana, it appears. He changed the FCRA ( 2010) policy. Now the BJP is using it for its advantage by destroying many small employed livelihoods.
After Modi claimed that he was an OBC chaiwala and mobilized OBCs and also labour, those who were not habitual voters of the Bharatiya Janata Party voted for the party both in 2014 and also 2019. In 2024 that looks to be the future.
Even this has not woken up the Congress intellectual Rajya Sabha rulers and law makers. They do not even seem to understand that the BJP, which was known as Brahmin-Bania party, is now turned into multi-caste party by promoting more and more Shudra/ OBCs/Dalits into the power positions. The Congress never made an OBC as the Vice-Chancellor of JNU. Now the BJP made a first woman-OBC vice-chancellor of JNU. Does not that work in their favour by influencing young Shudra/OBC stsudents? The BJP’s present cabinet and Rajya Sabha list also shows the new caste composition.
The two national parties must compete for promoting new social forces into the process of system running. But the Congress is refusing to compete. What diversity does this Rajya Sabha list present? What secularism the Congress leaders preach when they do not understand the productive castes that constitute 52 per cent get just one seat out of 10 (Surjewala, a Jat) even after 75 years of Independence?
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a Political Theorist, Social Activist and Author. His books God As Political Philosopher, The Shudras–Vision For a New Path are well known.