After the failure of the conspiracy to install a new government in Maharashtra in a surprise, early-morning oath-taking in 2019, Devendra Fadnavis mandated Ajit Pawar with the task of hatching a new conspiracy. It was decided that a situation would be created that would force the Shiv Sena MLAs to abandon the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and join the camp of Ajit Pawar and Fadnavis. While Fadnavis brought the MVA government under pressure, using the services of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), Ajit Pawar began egging on the MLAs to revolt by humiliating them. This conspiratorial agenda was successfully executed. Peshwai Brahmin Fadnavis was confident that Ajit Pawar, a feudal Maratha, was eminently capable of humiliating the MLAs.
Uddhav Thackeray’s laidback attitude and his personal-health issues also contributed to the success of the conspiracy. Uddhav Thackeray, despite being the chief minister, could not keep Ajit Pawar in check and because of his indifferent health could not actively remain in touch with the MLAs.
There was another factor. When you get more than what you deserve at a young age, success goes to your head and you tend to do things you shouldn’t. This was what happened with Aditya Thackeray. Senior MLAs, who had been fighting for the party, did not like Aditya encroaching on their turf. Their self-respect was hurt. An ailing Aditya Thackeray, like Dhritrashtra, was blinded by his love for his son.
The MVA government had come into being crossing many hurdles. The Congress leadership was not very enthusiastic about the idea of joining hands with the Shiv Sena. The BJP-appointee governor was more than just uncooperative. Then, Ajit Pawar walked out and could be brought back after considerable effort. The Uddhav Thackeray-led government was formed after many hiccups and the Congress, “which was ready to do anything to come to power”, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena finally tasted power. Uddhav Thackeray was totally averse to joining hands with the BJP, so were the Congress, the NCP and the Shiv Sena. This was the thread that bound them together. Ajit Pawar was the only person who could have harmed the government. And he did.
A popular Hindi saying in translation reads, “Even the gods fear the naked.” This saying aptly explains why Ajit Pawar enjoyed an enormous clout in the MVA government. He was given two important positions – deputy chief minister and finance minister. The MLAs of the ruling alliance feared that if Ajit Pawar was rubbed the wrong way, he would switch loyalties to Devendra Fadnavis. That was why they silently put up with his tantrums. But there is a limit to anyone’s patience.
Ajit Pawar not only displayed his feudal mindset by misbehaving with MLAs, he also starved them of funds. The finance department did not release adequate funds for developmental projects and schemes. This created problems for the MLAs. How would they face their electors if they didn’t bring about development in their constituencies? Moreover, developmental projects are executed through contractors. These contractors are an important link in the financing of politicians. They pay the workers, play a key role in the elections and ferry audiences in trucks and buses to public meetings and other political events. The developmental projects are a source of income for the MLAs. It was these contractors who had put up banners hailing Eknath Shinde in the constituencies of the rebel MLAs. Ajit Pawar had dismantled this financial chain.
From the above analysis, it is clear that a clash of interests was at the root of this rebellion. The interests may have been financial or may have been related to issues like humiliation and respect. If the basic issues are financial and psychological, where does Hindutva come in? Where was the concern for Hindutva when the MVA government was formed two and a half years ago? Why did it take that long for the MLAs to realize that they have digressed from the path of Hindutva? For more than two years, the rebels were part of a government that did not have Hindutva at the top of its agenda. There is a Sanskrit maxim “Arthasya Purushah Dasah”, meaning man is the slave of money. That brings us back to the question of how concern for Hindutva catalyzed the revolt.
Whenever there is any dispute or strife in a family, the head of the clan should immediately move in to settle the issue through democratic means. The Bhikhu Sangh of Buddha followed this principle strictly. That was how, during Buddha’s lifetime, the Bhikhu Sangh remained united. At the time, Buddha had the ideal of ancient democratic Ganas ruled by women before him. In today’s times, when democracies are basically capitalist, dynastic rule and dictatorship are the ideals. That is why rebellions and splits in parties have become common. Resentment in any group gives birth to rebels. These rebels invariably look for a safe sanctuary elsewhere. If they don’t find it, they give up the idea of quitting their group.
Chandragupta Maurya was sick of the antics of Chanakya. But Maurya abandoned the latter’s brahmanical religion only after he was assured of the patronage of Jainism. Emperor Ashoka quit the brahmanical religion and embraced Buddhism because his subjects were under the influence of Buddhism. Sant Dhyaneshwar assailed the Vedic brahmanical religion and adopted Navnath religion because it was the dominant non-brahmanical religion of his times and enjoyed pan-India popularity. Dhyaneshwar took refuge in the Nath religion to save his life from the Brahmins. Chhatrapati Shivaji, tired of the stratagems of the Brahmins, relinquished the brahmanical Vedic religion and embraced the non-brahmanical Shakta religion because the Shakta sect was popular among the Bahujans of that era. Shivaji found safety in it.
All rebellions in Indian history resulted from the disgust with the deceit, guile and hypocrisy of the Brahmins. These rebellions are the guiding lights for the struggle for equality. Until 1990-91, rebellions were rooted in anger and resentment against the caste system. But the 2022 rebellion in Maharashtra was led by pro-Hindutva elements. What should we make of it? Have atrocities and injustice in the name of caste ended? Are Dalits, Adivasis and the OBCs happy and prosperous and leading a life of dignity and respect? There is anger in the entire country on the issue of reservations and the Hindutvavadis are responsible for this anger. But the rebellion in Maharashtra was for Hindutva and not for the OBCs? Let us try to find out why this happened.
In 1988-89, V.P. Singh quit the Congress. At the time, Indian politics was dominated by the socialist and communist movements. The Mandal movement was also at its peak. V.P. Singh quit the Congress because he was hopeful of the backing of the workers under the sway of the socialists and the communists and of the OBC movement. Using the Mandal movement as a springboard, he founded the Janata Dal and formed his government at the Centre, outsmarting the Congress and the BJP.
To consolidate his workers’ vote bank, he promulgated several new labour laws. To consolidate the Dalit vote bank, his government made new laws including, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He also had a statue of Ambedkar installed on the premises of Parliament House and declared Ambedkar Jayanti a public holiday. To consolidate his OBC vote bank, he implemented the report of the Mandal Commission. But the brahmanical camp launched a cultural movement for the construction of Ram Mandir, unleashing a fierce war between the OBC and the Hindutva vote banks.
The cultural movement centred on the Ram Mandir movement overshadowed and throttled the movement of the working classes because the communists never took cultural, caste issues seriously. The Dalit movement also lost steam because it, too, was indifferent to this cultural issue. The battle for Ram Mandir created a Hindu vote bank for the BJP, which helped the party immensely. At the same time, growing caste consciousness led to the OBC vote bank striking roots. It was the OBC vote bank that enabled Lalu Yadav’s party in Bihar and the parties of Mulayam Singh and Kanshi Ram in Uttar Pradesh to come to power by overpowering the Hindutva of the brahmanical camp. The need to cater to the OBC vote bank forced the Congress and the BJP to appoint OBCs as chief ministers and deputy chief ministers in some states.
Chhagan Bhujbal was the first leader to revolt against the Shiv Sena leadership. That was in 1991-92. He used the OBC issue to break ties with the brahmanical Shiv Sena and joined the Congress. When Bhujbal quit the Shiv Sena, he joined the OBC movement. Why is that in 2022, the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs are talking about Hindutva rather than the OBCs?
There are many organizations of the OBCs in Maharashtra. They are fighting for greater political representation for the OBCs. The OBCs are also becoming more conscious. But why is the OBC movement not impacting politics? Finding an answer to this question and crafting a future strategy on its basis will boost the clout of OBC politics in Maharashtra and force the parties in power to take issues related to the OBCs more seriously.
Until 1990-91, the OBC movement was launched and sustained by committed local workers. That was why it could draw the attention of V.P. Singh. This powerful movement was used by Chhagan Bhujbal to change his political trajectory. But he jumped from the brahmanical frying pan of the Shiv Sena into the brahmanical fire of the Congress. Instead of strengthening the OBC movement, he only strengthened the Congress’s Maratha-Brahmin politics. The Maratha-Brahmin politicians, emboldened by an OBC leader joining their ranks, began enfeebling the OBC movement. From then on, all political parties started building a cadre of OBC middlemen leaders and workers in their respective outfits.
The 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, promulgated in 1993-94, which provided reservations in Panchayati Raj institutions, were, basically, aimed at creating a band of Dalit-OBC middlemen. All political parties used the OBC movement to further their politics.
The OBC organizations of Maharashtra claim that they are independent social bodies while in fact they are associated with one or the other party. Come elections, the leaders and workers of these organizations work for these political parties and play a key role in getting their candidates elected. Many OBC organizations are under the thumb of the Marathas. It is because of these middlemen that the OBC movement has fizzled out. These OBC middlemen eye membership of the Legislative Council but are happy even if they are nominated as candidates in local elections. With so many OBC leaders, thinkers and workers on sale at low prices, who cares for the 52 per cent OBC vote bank. Why will anyone make a weak OBC movement the basis of his political revolt?
In contrast, the cultural movement launched in 1985 in the name of Ram Mandir, has lent strength to the brahmanical camp. It created a Hindu vote bank and their strength kept increasing. Innumerable workers of the Sangh worked day and night to build and consolidate the Hindutva vote bank. They tried to strengthen Hindutva wherever they were. Those in the media used it to foment Hindu-Muslim riots. The OBC workers in the media never allowed discussion on OBC issues. The workers of the RSS in the parties other than the BJP used their parties to strengthen the Hindutva vote bank. OBC-Dalit workers became pawns of the Brahmins and the Marathas. But the RSS-Brahmin leaders and workers never played the role of middlemen. The OBC workers became agents of whichever party they were in and served to strengthen the anti-OBC politics of the established leadership.
Thus a Hindu vote bank, transcending the boundaries of caste, came into being. But no one is ready to forget his caste and work purely as an OBC worker. The so-called OBC organizations are all collectives of people of particular castes. An organization has the word “Samta” (Equality) as part of its name but all its members are Malis! Those who became MLAs or MPs through this organization are also exclusively Malis. Nais, Dhobhis and others can’t even get low-level posts in OBCs organizations and universities. Similarly, Kunbis, Telis, Dhangars, Dhobhis and others have also formed their OBC organizations. How will such one-caste OBC organizations impact politics?
Four generations had taken great pains to build an OBC vote bank that crystallized in 1990-91. The middlemen leaders and thinkers smothered this movement after 1990-91, just for personal gains. In contrast, the brahmanical vote bank of Hindutvavadis allowed non-Brahmins to occupy top positions like those of chief ministers and Prime Minister. The Hindutva vote bank now elects governments and the OBC vote bank has fallen by the wayside. That is why most of the politicians of the country now seek security in Hindutva. Despite being in power in the company of comparatively secular parties like the Congress and the NCP, the Shiv Sena leaders had to travel to Ayodhya to keep their Hindutva vote bank safe. Such is the political clout of the Hindutva vote bank. In such circumstances, the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs are bound to seek security in Hindu vote bank and take refuge in the BJP.
Had the OBC movement been strong in Maharashtra and had there been even one powerful political party of the OBCs, the Shiv Sena rebels would have banked on the issue of reservations for the OBCs rather than on Hindutva. That would have strengthened the OBC movement. Nitish Kumar is in power in Bihar in coalition with the BJP but he still pursues the politics of OBCs. That is because the OBC vote bank and a party of self-respecting OBCs – the Rashtriya Janata Dal – are strong in that state. That is why, when Nitish Kumar proposed a census of OBCs in the Vidhan Sabha, the BJP was forced to sidestep its Hindutva agenda and extend its support to the proposal. OBC politics is equally influential in Uttar Pradesh.
If the OBC vote bank has to be strengthened in Maharashtra, along the lines of Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the OBCs need to establish an independent and self-respecting party of their own.
(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil)
Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: email@example.com)
The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy: