The Renegades

Kalyan Singh and OBC Politics

Ram Puniyani

Mr Kalyan Singh the twice ex Chief Minister of UP and later Governor of Rajasthan breathed his last on Saturday 21st August 2021. Since then rich tributes have been paid to him by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cabal. He was its OBC face. He will be remembered for his tenure when under his watch Babri mosque was demolished. He was the chief minister of UP and in a meeting of ‘National Integration Council’; (incidentally this body is not revived during BJP rule), promised that the mosque will be protected. He also gave a written affidavit to the Courts that all will be done by the state to protect the mosque. When the demolition began, he instructed the police forces to take it easy when the Kar Sevaks were on rampage and from stage Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharati were giving speeches.

Later he was sentenced to one day jail for contempt of the Court and he wore it as a badge of honour and many coined the word “Hindu Hriday Samrat” for him. He proudly said that in the cause of Lord Ram he is willing to do anything and he has no regrets.

While BJP for long time had an upper caste image, it was the likes of Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and Vinay Katiyar who brought in OBC component within it. Kalyan Singh was the major leader who had contacts not only with Lodh community but other non-Yadav OBCs like Bind, Mallah, Kumbhars, Kashyaps and Kurmis to name a few. While he was in BJP most of the time; at the crucial time of 2014 General elections he played a crucial role and evolved ‘Kalyan Singh formula’ of incorporating the Non Yadav OBCs in BJP-RSS scheme of things, giving rich dividends to the electoral results in favour of BJP. He was trained in RSS shakhas and was picked up by Nanaji Deshmukh and later Lal Krishna Advani for bigger political role.

His major journey began with Ram Rath Yatras, which became more intense after the Mandal Commission report was imple-mented. As RSS worker he was opposed to this report. For electoral reasons RSS Combine did not want to appear to be opposing it. He met RSS Sah Sarkaryavah Bhaurao deoras and Mr Deoras told him the RSS thinking on the matter. Deoras told him ‘The more intense Ram Temple movement gets the lesser would be the implications of Mandal Report implementation.” The same was famously articulated by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who said, ‘They brought Mandal: so we had to bring Kamandal’.

The agenda of RSS is visible as anti minority one, but surely that is just the superficial part of the whole. Its core is also to retain the birth based hierarchies of caste and gender. Its birth was also in the backdrop of education for women on one hand and beginning of Dalit movement on the other. Jyotirao Phule began his campaign for education of Dalits, encouraging them to escape the land slavery and to go to cities to become workers. The Non Brahmin movement in Vidarbha area was inspired by the teachings of Phule and then Ambedkar. This movement was against the landlord Brahmin hegemony.

This is where the likes of Hedgewar began this organisation glorifying the past of pristine Hindu society. The second Sarsanghchalak Golwalkar upheld the teachings of Manu which are in short the manual for caste and gender hierarchy. RSS first consolidated itself through the vast network of Swayameevaks- Pracharaks indoctrinated in the ideology which upholds these hierarchies. There were many great things in the past, many writers are correctly highlighting that but they keep mum about the plight of women and dalits. For them the values of equality put forward by Lord Gautam Buddha or the teachings of Bhakti saints are a small footnote on the ‘great Hindu civilization’.

RSS is very dynamic and the language of Golwalkar cannot be spoken today while retaining its core teaching of hierarchical society. The idea is to achieve Hindu unity while keeping internal inequality intact. So at theoretical level all castes are presented to be as equal and strength of Hindu society. While these castes do require affirmative action for marching for substantial equality, that is something which is an anathema for Hindu nationalist politics. So there are multiple strategies to co-opt these communities in the grand scheme of Hindu nationalist society. This is through social work, Seva and promoting Hindu-ness, Hindu sentiment.

These communities’ Dalits and OBCs have been the major arena where the swayamsevaks and pracharaks of RSS combine have been working. Many sociologists think that RSS is changing as its work in these communities is attracting them towards this organisation. No doubt the type of work and strategies among these communities has yielded rich dividends at electoral level; in 2019 elections Congress could garner 15% of OBC votes while BJP bagged 44%.

The core reason of the success of this Combine lies in appropriating marginalised and subaltern identities. This appropriation is given anti- Muslim or anti -Christian slant depending on the area of their work. Acts of abolition of reservations whenever the opportunity comes is very much there. While Ambedkar was talking of caste annihilation the organisations like Samajik Samrasta Manch are talking of harmony between castes, ‘as they are where they are’.

Even Narnedra Modi has taken advantage of his birth in an OBC family while his politics is totally the one of Hindu nationalism. The likes of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati added the crucial aspect of giving a political space to some OBC communities within the umbrella of Hindu nationalism. Identifying these marginalised communities and working among them with their agenda is the dominant aspect of their work today. What Kalyan Singh began has been supplemented by the grassroots work of giving them respectable identity (not rights or affirmative policies), and that is the strength of BJP and company.

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Vol. 54, No. 13, Sep 26 - Oct 2, 2021