NARENDRA MODI'S victory with a two-thirds majority in Gujarat has signalled the emergence of a strong, independent OBC (Other backward Class) leader in the BJP. Earlier, two independent OBC leaders — Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav — had emerged from the fold of socialist politics in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. But that was in the context of the Yadavs emerging as landed gentry with some socio-economic capital.
The others who became Chief Ministers in the Congress and the BJP were not independent leaders. In the BJP, Kalyan Singh tried to emerge as an independent leader but the Parivar structures did not allow him to do so. For a long time no independent OBC leader was allowed to emerge from within the Parivar. Only Atal Behari Vajpayee and L. K. Advani were allowed that autonomous space as they had social and economic clout around them.
Mr. Modi, member of a Backward Caste that has little socio-economic clout in Gujarat, used the Parivar policy of attacking the deliberately constructed enemy — Muslims — with a more organised network than that of the Parivar's Brahmin leaders. He has become a bigger hero than Mr. Advani by mobilising muscle power better than Mr. Advani did in 1992. He seems to have realised that only the weapon of violence — not sacrifice — can make an individual a hero and that the social value of Dharma is assigned to the victorious, not the sufferer.
Ever since the Hindutva network began to organise caste-ridden Indian society into a religious- nationalist social force, one of its main problems was how to bring the Sudras/OBCs into its fold without giving them equal rights in the spiritual realm. To achieve it, the Hindutva ideologues constructed an imaginary nationalist goal and asked the otherwise uneducated OBCs to participate in nation-building without granting them a share in the national wealth. This was necessary because the caste system was undercutting the social base of the Hindu religion as the Dalits and even some OBCs were embracing other religions. For political and social consolidation of the Brahminical ideology such a task was deemed necessary. The Mandal agenda of the OBCs, initiated by forces outside the Hindutva network, was seen as a plan to undercut Hindu nationalism and the consolidation of forces towards majoritarianism.
The Sangh Parivar successfully organised a large section of OBCs (not as many Dalits) because neither the Congress, which had been in power for several decades, nor the communists, who were talking about socialism, had granted any visible socio-political place in their party structures to the OBCs. In the general environment of Anglicised Brahminism dominating all political formations, a majority of the OBCs were getting attracted to the Parivar network which spoke the native idiom and promised a dream land of Hindu Rashtra if the Muslims were driven out of India. In that crucial period, V.P Singh and the small OBC lobby around him planned the Mandal agenda that disturbed every organised party but the BJP more. The BJP then raised the Mandir-Masjid issue as a diversionary tactic. For the OBCs in the Sangh Parivar it was an occasion where they could use their only asset — muscle power — against the constructed enemy, Muslims.
When the Sangh Parivar needed mass muscle power it had to turn to the OBCs within and it was in this situation that Mr. Advani with the help of Hindutva theoreticians such as Govindacharya worked out a mediating language of social engineering for advancing Hindutva. The Advani faction assigned some leadership roles to the OBCs. Mr. Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katiyar from Uttar Pradesh, Uma Bharti from Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Modi from Gujarat and so on got some positions in the Sangh Parivar. By then, the political ambitions of OBC leaders everywhere were whetted, but without a vision for the socio-spiritual transformation of Indian society. This was aided and abetted by the environment created by the Bahujan Samaj Party's Kanshi Ram with the "our votes for our seats" slogan.
The BJP made serious efforts, much more than other parties, to include and accommodate the
OBCs so as to provide Hindutva its muscle power. The secularists and communists remained more backward in this strategy than the Hindutva forces. The illiterate OBC masses did not understand the whole debate of secularism, socialism and communalism in relation to their own lives. They understood the Mandal discourse because it gave them some jobs. The communists promised heaven but no OBC was getting a visible place in those theory-centred organisations at the national and regional level. For such a social mass, the Parivar had a practical solution: participate in muscle power mobilisation and get the benefits. After the Babri demolition campaign the OBCs began getting the recognition within Hindu Brahminic civil society they had craved for long.
Those wanting to be leaders in the Sangh Parivar had only to abuse Muslims in the fiercest language possible. Mr. Modi and Ms. Bharti could do that well. In the Congress, one needed sophisticated education and the ability to speak the nuanced language of secularism to become a national leader. The P. V. Narasimha Rao period was the real Brahminic period of the Congress in which all OBC leaders with some stature were systematically set aside. The communists did not nurture a single OBC leader and even after the Mandal period they sought only alliances with leaders such as Mr. Mulayam Singh and Mr. Laloo Yadav with all the necessary care to see that their theory remained "pure". Now, for the average educated OBC the Hindutva party became the easy option.
However, it was not as if the temple-centered Hindu priestly class that had been giving full support to leaders such as Mr. Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi was not uneasy with the new visibility of the OBCs. It was. Now, Mr. Modi has emerged as the hero of the OBCs within Parivar; he could even ignore Mr. Vajpayee and set his own agenda. For the first time an OBC leader had become praiseworthy for the Brahmin and other upper caste leaders and was in full command of Gujarat — the mini Hindu Rashtra. How did he do that? By deploying the muscle power of the OBCs under his command and asking the upper caste leaders of the BJP to simply supervise his command structure in attacking the imaginary enemy, constructed by the very same Brahminic theoreticians, in real, physical terms.
The media, busy retaining the secular image of India, did not realise how an average OBC viewed the rise of such a leader. His cutouts were bigger than those of Mr. Vajpayee or Mr. Advani. In this atmosphere, a section of upper castes — particularly Brahmins and Baniyas — seemed to have moved towards the Congress but the OBCs seemed to have voted en masse for their new hero. If Mr. Katiyar repeats this in Uttar Pradesh we will have one more hero, perhaps at the cost of more lives there.
There is a lesson here for the secularists and the communists. As Hinduism did not allow Dalits to get into temples they began to move towards Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. If the secularists and the communists do not allow the OBCs to grow in their organisations Mr. Modi will become their national leader and their Prime Ministerial candidate too. And in such a situation, feeble OBC voices like mine will be drowned.