Indian politics for a long time was under the unilateral rule of Congress party because of which other democratic and secular parties could not expand and develop themselves. Secular politics or secularism had been considered the sole property of Congress. Therefore, other such parties with a secular progressive ideology had no space in national politics. As a result, parties with religious fundamentalist ideology occupied the space as the opposition camp. Afterwards, this space got filled by the Jan Sangh and then the BJP. However, before Jan Sangh and BJP, there was no other competent political alternative for religious fundamentalists, hence so many of them joined the Congress.
It’s another matter that even though in the 1980s they got the option of BJP they did not leave their respective seats from Congress party. But Congress is a party filled with such contradictions. They are progressive as well as regressive; religious fundamentalist as well as secular. Many decisions of Congress party have gone against their own ideology. Be it cases of Dalit atrocities or Hindu-Muslim-Sikh riots, the stand of Congress has remained depleted rather than being secular. That is why Congressmen remained silent when the Muslims were butchered in the Gujarat riots. It is clear from Rana Ayyub’s Gujarat Files that they wanted riots to happen, that is why they maintained silence. BJP and Congress are complementary parties to each other. Both have the same caste and class character. The recent rise of BJP through Modi has been beneficial to Congress. Otherwise, Congress would not have got the chance to rejuvenate and revitalize itself.
Today, Indian democracy is facing a big challenge in the form of BJP. The venomous fruits of Hindutva, planted by the RSS, are explicit in Indian politics in the form of BJP today. The BJP has taken the country fifty years back in the last five years. The Hindu fundamentalists got a free hand, their violent and hysterical activities were unchecked after BJPs rise to power in 2014. Both laws and reason are not being followed. The country has reached the threshold of anarchy. If the BJP gets another five years, India may turn into being in a Syria like situation. That’s why this venom should be destroyed at the earliest.
However, it is not the job of a single party to destroy the venom which has been spreading for 90 years. For this, all parties who have democratic and secular ethos should come together. But we are seeing a deadlock in the process of unity as these people are more interested in power share and domination. Even the intention of Congress and its allies is not to oppose BJP on the ground that it is a regressive, religious fundamentalist party but only to regain lost power. The agenda of these parties is not to destroy and eliminate Hindutva but to gain power from Hindutva upholders. For their agenda, they try to capitalize on any issues that are available to them. Therefore, their opposition to Hindutva is a means or instrument and not an end. We have experienced the fact that they can give support to Hindutvawadis for power. We cannot have faith in such statesmen and diplomats who can lick spit in return for power. They can change anytime. Therefore, we should not allow them to take political advantage of the unrest against BJP. It is our basic tenet that we will be putting up resistance to any cruel power. But we should take care that our resistance or unrest should not be used cunningly to set other cruel powers in motion by dethroning the established one. It has been observed in the case of Una protest or in Bhima Koregoan protest, that when our resistance and unrest reached the peak, Congressmen get activated and with cunning opportunism, derive political mileage out of it.
BJPwalas consider and label their opponents as Congressians and the Congresswalas consider and label their opponents as BJPians. Both of them have created an environment that has left only two perspectives in this country. They have conveniently overlooked and ignored that there may be a third vision as well. So far the progressives were hesitant that they had no third capable political choice. The first choice, which is BJP and its allies, are openly against our ideas. The second choice, that is Congress and its allies, patronize regressiveness by painting themselves as progressive from the outside. Both of these are not in our interest. Because in the democratic system, only those interests will come to the centre who as voters have a decisive majority. In this situation, regardless of whoever is in the government, only the Constitution of this country can protect minorities and small groups like us. Now the only alternative that can combine these groups and build a big front to save the constitution is Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).
The politics of Prakash Ambedkar aka Balasaheb, who formed VBA is not limited to Dalits. He is trying to build a political force of exploited and deprived groups by clubbing farmers, peasants, workers, tribals, OBCs, nomadic tribes, denotified tribes, minorities, and women all together.
The politics that has been constructed by the established politicians over the last 60 years appear nurtured in democracy, but their soul is casteism and capitalism. That is why democracy has still not been inculcated in the minds of Indian people. All the estimates of politics are based on caste. Today, the caste system has become a necessity of politics. In such a situation, if Balasaheb Ambedkar is taking up the agenda of the annihilation of caste and doing nonaligned caste politics, then which mass will be standing behind them is the real question. There is no certainty whether the Ambedkarite middle class which has become bourgeois because of the reservation will stand behind him or not. Because Balasaheb is not at all interested in the emotional and one caste politics, which is dear to this class. It will be surprising if this issue is not being capitalized by those who feed their stomachs from the various small fragments of Republican Party against Balasaheb Ambedkar. On the other hand, the Scheduled Castes communities other than Neo-Buddhists have stood under their own caste leaderships. The same phenomenon is found in all the communities of ST, NT, OBC category. Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have already created a leadership in each respective caste from within. BJP is now following the same policy. Because they are convinced that voters do not go outside when caste and capitalism come together. Voters can be bound emotionally and economically to this mechanism. That is why it is very difficult to elect politicians who fight for material issues. In this backdrop, we will eventually come to know how many people understand Prakash Ambedkar’s inclusive and democratic politics, through the success of VBA in upcoming elections. During Maratha morchas, Prakash Ambedkar who asked not to stage counter morcha to avoid chaos and maintained peace and hence was admired by many Marathas. Now we will get to know that these Marathas will stand with him or with their caste.
AIMIM is one of the participants of the VBA, and is considered a mild reaction to extremist Hindu politics. Yet, those who call it as fanatic should examine anti-muslim politics of Congress and BJP. For so many days Congress looted the Muslims showcasing fear of BJP, and the BJP did the same with the Hindus showcasing fear of Muslim appeasement by Congress and again looted the Muslims. Both parties have immensely neglected the material questions of Muslim communities. That is why Muslims today have become like tribes of the cities. According to the Sachar Committee report, 65 percent of Muslims are living in very poor conditions. 43 percent of Muslims live in slums. Due to poverty, they are not able to take up education. Without education, jobs are unavailable. No appropriate and decent means of employment are in hand. Their incomes are extremely low because of which even their primary needs are not met. On one hand, Hindutva politics created emotional insecurity among Muslims, while secular politics kept them in destitution. In such cases, the spread of AIMIM is natural. In the form of AIMIM, Indian Muslims have got a supportive and credible party. President of this party, Mr. Asududin Owaisi, is a well-educated and socially conscious leader. He is well aware of the issues and problems of Indian Muslims. For the rights of Muslims he has waged the fight for social justice within the bounds of the Constitution. In addition to this, Owaisi has launched a massive campaign against Hindu nationalism of Tilak and Savarkar which stigmatizes Muslims collectively as an outsider and anti-national entity. That is why he has been called as a fanatic to demean his politics. However, at the same time, each caste, religious parties, and their leaders are conveniently ignored.
The announcement of the VBA has given a big blow to established politicians. The political calculations of established parties based on minorities, such as Muslims, Christian, Dalits, NT-DNT, and OBCs, are impossible due to VBA. And because of VBA’s moves, the left and right, both are in a stage of confusion. They do not know exactly how to react to VBA’s political tactics. Then out of inability, some have started calling VBA as B team of BJP. Some out of worry came up with the proposition that VBA will help BJP win by dividing secular votes. But nobody discusses that VBA stands as the third capable alternative which stands against explicit and implicit hindutva politics of both BJP and Congress. This is the first experiment. In coming times, we will come to know how much it succeeds. Everybody in Maharashtra knows now that VBA is the beginning of a path-breaking change in Indian politics.
Sudam Rathod is a renowned poet and Assistant Professor of Marathi literature at Arts and Commerce college in Khedgoan, Nashik.
Translation by- Mahipal Mahamatta, TISS Mumbai.