The people have spoken loud and clear. Modi has a massive mandate but who does he and his government represent? Technically only all those (31% for the BJP; 38.5% for the NDA) who voted for the Modi-led NDA. Despite that falling far short of any majority of the vote share, the NDA bagged 336 (62%) Lok Sabha
seats. At the other end, the BSP got nearly 4.5% vote share, mostly in UP, but not a single seat. Surprisingly, AAP got 2% vote share but 4 seats (all in Punjab) in its national debut. It is quite another thing that the NDA has not a single Muslim in the 16th Lok Sabha. However, in our Westminster-style First Past The Post (FPTP) system, the NDA is now the government of the whole Republic of India’s 1.2 billion citizens for the next five years. All this is according to the Representation of People Act.
Be that as it may, the Modi-led NDA government would do well to remember that they cannot afford to even be seen to be representing only certain interests – like the corporates who funded this most expensive of campaigns; the Sangh Parivar and the RSS in particular who contributed “sweat equity” to the electoral success on the ground; the Brahmanical elements within the BJP with their Hindutva “cultural” agendas – or to be remote-controlled by its own Parivar from Nagpur. Least of all, it should not act in a majoritarian mode.
The Election Commission asks no questions and therefore has no answers about the social profile – religion and caste – of the voters. Fortunately, through its pre-poll and exit-poll surveys, the reputable Centre for the Study of Democratic Societies (CSDS) does. Once again, we have the benefit of this post-election Cover Story by CSDS Director Sanjay Kumar. My own Editorial Essay on the “Decade of Dalitbahujans” benefited from a sneak preview of some of the social profile of the vote shares.
This issue is not all focused on politics and elections. With this issue we launch a discourse on another issue of representation – of Dalits and other Bahujans in literature. For the past few months there has been a feverish debate on the topic, ranging from public meetings and media articles to social-media campaigns. This latest round was triggered off by the release of Navayana’s new annotated edition of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. While some are incensed even by a Savarna adding footnotes to Babasaheb’s “sacred text”, most of the attack is on Booker novelist and writer-activist Arundhati Roy’s long (much longer than Ambedkar’s undelivered 1936 speech) Introduction.
We launch this discourse with the reasoned, balanced analysis of the issues by Delhi University professor of History, Anirudh Deshpande. So far this debate has generated far more heat than light. FORWARD Press welcomes more and different points of views on this emotive issue. The only thing we ask is for a modicum of reasonableness if not civility. Let us remember, in the battles that face Dalitbahujans in the days ahead, we require more friends and allies. Some of them may be Savarna. Even the Father of the Indian Social Revolution, Jotiba Phule, had some faithful Savarna friends who stood by him in the struggle till the very end. Or do we need a Representation of Bahujan People Act?
Published in the June 2014 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine
Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of the Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) community’s literature, culture, society and culture. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. The Marginalised Prakashan, IGNOU Road, Delhi. Mobile: +919968527911. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)