Other Backward Classes (OBCs) comprise the biggest block of Indian society in terms of numbers. Barring the Northeast and a few states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal, no party could enter the corridors of power without garnering substantial OBC support. Today, the BJP’s hegemony and the decadent state of the Congress at the national level come primarily from their successes and failures in resonating with the OBCs. By playing the OBC card, the Congress won big in Chhattisgarh in the 2018 assembly election and defeated the ruling BJP. Going by their role as default social gatekeeper for any party’s political and electoral success, OBC interests and issues should have been the default policy preference of all parties. That is not the case as OBCs are a divided lot, socially and politically.
There have been moments, however, when certain issues and movements united this social bloc politically, forcing the polity to champion its cause, such as during the Mandal wave. So, will the twin issues—push for caste-based census by a significant section of OBC leaders, and reservation in the private sector—bring about such a moment of consolidation?