From Kamandal Versus Mandal To Kamandal Plus Mandal
The latest election result in Uttar Pradesh poses a question on how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got it right, despite failing in Bihar. The reason for drawing this comparison emerges from the fact that the complexion of democracy in both the States is predominantly influenced by Mandal and Kamandal politics. On the one hand, Kamandal politics has remained with the BJP throughout. On the other, its attempt at social engineering through Mandal politics has been an attempt in recent years. The arrival of Narendra Modi at the national stage has assured the BJP returns from both its Mandal and Kamandal constituents, making the Prime Minister its perfect brand ambassador.
For 27 years after the implementation of Mandal Commission’s report, caste remains the central focus of Indian politics in the Hindi heartland. Churnings, though, still took place in the Mandal dynamics itself. Kamandal imported it as an essential ingredient of its existence, even as Kamandal came to be the trademark of the BJP. In one stroke, the so-called rulers were unseated and in name of social justice came a coalition of all non-upper castes which included Other Backward Classes, Extremely backward Castes (the difference between the two is important) and the Scheduled Castes.
The path that Mandal and Kamandal have tread is entirely different. While Mandal became somewhat of a domination, if not monopoly, of the landed, numerically and economically well-positioned Yadavs, to the exclusion of EBCs in terms of real empowerment, Kamandal in a way started its adoption of social engineering through OBC satraps — mostly non-Yadavs such as Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Sushil Kumar Modi. In the Mandal bloc, there was further assertion of Yadavs, with Mulayam Singh Yadav easing Mayawati out and Lalu Prasad Yadav edging out both Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan out of the umbrella of power.
Both Ram Vilas Paswan and Mayawati signalled the realisation in the Dalit political ranks that they had been short-changed in the Mandal game, and had got nothing from the anti-upper-caste platform dominated by the Yadavs. The SCs/ STs had reservations in Government jobs — they still have it — while the OBCs did not have reservations in Government jobs, and they got it. The SCs and Scheduled Tribes had reservations in education and the OBCs also got this bonanza, which they did not have. While the OBCs gained, the SCs and STs lost their privileges of reservations in promotions. It is not surprising to see, therefore, Scheduled Caste leaders in the laboratory of Mandal (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) in non-Yadav camps.
The desertion from the Yadav camp continued with Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Beni Prasad Verma in Uttar Pradesh shifting camps and reaping dividends of initiating Mandal-II. Now we had two camps propping out of the beneficiary politicians of the Mandal era. Nitish Kumar started an outreach towards the Extremely Backward Castes — they were at receiving end of their neo-rulers. A realisation emerged among the EBCs that in the net effect they had gained nothing out of Mandal and the Yadav rule. Nitish Kumar and the BJP brought together a coalition of Extremes comprising upper castes, EBCs and a few non-Yadav OBCs to clinch a decisive electoral victory. However, the tangible benefits to EBCs are still not felt, though the base for their improvement was laid and a hybrid of Mandal and Kamandal was tested. What has come to be witnessed in Uttar Pradesh is this hybrid playing to full measure, with a perfect face provided in Modi.
His assertion that he comes from a ‘backward caste’ gives Brand Modi the force multiplier it needs to top its cultural and Hindutva base. It leaves the proponents of Mandal on the other side dumb founded. Kamandal can easily co-opt Mandal but Mandal will have to walk a long distance in co-opting Kamandal. In fact, as of today, it cannot, as the Scheduled Castes realise the net loss that Mandal has done to them. It no longer remains a forward caste versus backward caste battle, which makes it imperatively to need minorities. It is a battle where interest aggregation of various castes block — upper castes, Yadavs, non-Yadav OBCs, EBCs, Jatavs, non-Jatavs and minorities play out in varied measures. There is no identified enemy as a point of first consideration but only identifiable interests as the first consideration. The enemy comes later in a world of materialism where television sets train people to aspire.
The BJP might have lost the election in Bihar but the NDA’s impressive vote-share of around 35 per cent makes it still the most dominant political group, as against around 41 per cent of the others. The NDA’s vote share came from EBCs and SCs, apart from 15 per cent upper castes (with 19 per cent minorities polarised against it). The fact that a Yadav satrap conceded that he cannot do it alone in the blitzkrieg of Mandal Plus Kamandal (Narendra Modi) and needs a Nitish Kumar and some EBCs, apart from an erstwhile-considered safe combination of Muslim-Yadav, confirmed the death of the first two phases of Mandal viz Yadav dominance and then OBC dominance. Even Nitish Kumar had to offset his loss of Kamandal and urge EBCs and OBCs to vote for him — or else the benefit of reservation would be taken away.
Phase III of Mandal of EBC assertion was in full play in the just held election in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is testing its hybrid of Kamandal and Mandal with the brand ambassador of this formulation, Prime Minister Modi, in full charge. The BJP is not repeating its mistakes in Bihar of playing on Yadav pride but going for the jugular by giving due prominence to non-Yadav OBCs representing the second part of Mandal, and to the Extremely Backward castes of Mandal III. The tide of Mandal III has started. By all counts, the next phase must belong to the EBCs. And, even after the Uttar Pradesh election result is known, the wait for a mass leader from the EBC continues.
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