Political turmoil in Nagpur
This time, Nitin Gadkari is the BJP candidate from Nagpur. Speculations and rumours abound – over this ajatshatru (one who has no enemies) Brahmin’s maiden entry into the arena of direct elections. Now a multimillionaire, Gadkari, till about three decades ago, used to drive around the city on a scooter.
We all have heard of the tales of kings and emperors holding a ‘sadavrat’ (a place where food is available for free for all) for their subjects. But if you ask any of his opponents in the city about the Gadkari Wada at Mahal in the Orange Town, you will be told that a sadavrat there has been in operation for the last several months. Meanwhile, Bhupesh Thoolkar, head of the Maharashtra unit of RPI (Athwale), which has joined the NDA, dismisses the talk of ’sadavrat’ as a rumour, but he too does not deny the tales of Gadkari’s ‘financial generosity’.
Gadkari’s victory is said to be certain. Since he is one of those skilled politicians who has friends in all political parties, he is said to have secret understandings and underhand deals. For instance, it is being said that he is trying to ensure safe passage for the son of his friend in the Congress, Datta Meghe, from the neighbouring Wardha constituency. He wants a weak RPI candidate, instead of a strong Shiv Sena candidate, to be fielded against Meghe junior so that his victory becomes easier. In return, he wants the Congress to field Rajendra Mulak, a young minister in the state government and Datta Meghe’s relative, from Nagpur instead of the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) heavyweight, Vilas Muttemwar, who has represented Nagpur in the Lok Sabha for seven terms.
However, after the intial suspense, the Congress announced that it is once again going with their tried and tested Muttemwar. Gadkari’s calculations were also a trifle upset by Rahul Gandhi, who directed that the Congress candidate from Wardha should be selected through primaries. But Gadkari must have been relieved when Sagar Meghe, the son of Datta Meghe, the sitting Congress MP from Wardha, still won the primary on 9 March.
If Nagpur anoints Gadkari this time, it will only be the second victory for a Brahmin from here after Banwarilal Purohit, who had won the seat riding on the Ram Mandir wave. Muttemwar hails from the Komti caste, which is the equivalent of Beldar caste of North India. The number of Komti voters in the constituency is negligible and Muttemwar’s successive victories have come with the backing of the traditional Congress voters as well as the Dalits and Bahujans. The Dalit votes are likely to be divided between NDA, BSP and Congress due to the RPI. According to Vimal Surya Chimankar of Samta Sainik Dal, “Committed Ambedkarite Dalits like us will vote to defeat Gadkari. We face a threat from the RSS and Brahmanism, and Gadkari is a symbol of both.” He says, “Gadkari is a blue-eyed boy of the RSS, which is headquartered at Nagpur, and the organisation will move heaven and earth to bring victory to him. But Muttemwar is also no weakling. Just wait for the announcement of candidates. The possibility of the Gadkari factor being behind the delay can also not be ruled out.”
Those in the know of the political ground realities of Nagpur say that the symbolism of AAP fielding Anjali Damania instead of the grassroots leader Jammu Anand (EBC), who has joined AAP after quitting the CPI, has also not been lost on the people and it is only going to benefit Gadkari. Damania is a non-Maharashtrian ‘outsider’ (from the General Category), although many non-Maharashtrian leaders like Praful Patel and Vijay Darda are doing quite well in Nagpur and the surrounding areas.
In Maharashtra, the Rajputized Marathas refuse to describe themselves as Shudras but they represent the Bahujan domination of the state’s politics. The Kunbis or ‘chota Marathas’, who are their political followers, have been instrumental in bringing the ‘bada Marathas’ to power. If these Marathas only recalled what their source of inspiration, Shivaji Maharaj, went through at the time of his anointment as king, they would realise what their real political position is. The Maratha Brahmins had refused to anoint him saying that he was a Shudra. So Brahmins were called in from Banaras, who, it is said, applied tilak on his forehead with their big toes. (If their present economic status is not taken into consideration, the Marathas can be at the vanguard of the Bahujan caravan.)
The long and short of it is that the political power in the state is being shared by the Brahmins and the ‘bada Marathas’ and the character of both is brahmanical. The way the Kunbi leaders like Congress MP Datta Meghe and others are behaving, it seems they are ready to carry the palanquin of the Brahmins. Led by Ramdas Athawale, a section of the Dalits has already laid a red carpet for the palanquin parade.
(The title of the report is inspired by a poem of the great Hindi poet Nagarjun)
Published in the April 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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