Social Politics vs Party Politics

By Ashok Yadav

There are two kinds of sub-altern politics being played out in India. One is Social Politics and the other is Party Politics. As I have gathered from years of activism, sub-altern politics is a sum total of unlimited number of activities pursued by differently oriented but commonly concerned persons directed towards advancement of society from inferior to superior stage of social organization. There are two groups of activists. The one group consists of activists engaged in raising and agitating issues which are fundamental and basic to our society. For example, these activists are spreading awareness among the people for eradication of superstitions, for overcoming mental slavery of religious dogmas and priestly classes, for fighting against caste discrimination, for proper and strict implementation of reservation policies, for promotion of brotherhood among much differentiated lower caste groups along caste lines etc. This group is of the view that society is fundamental from which all politics should emanate. That is to say that social issues should also be the issues of politics, that political mobilization should be conducted around these issues and that once political power is achieved; it should be harnessed to further the social agenda. These activists are practitioners of what I have preferred to call Social Politics. Arjak Sangh, BAMCEF, Triveni Sangh and scores of such organizations of dalit and backward castes may be cited as examples of outfits engaged in Social Politics. The other group consists of activists engaged in different political parties as foot soldiers of their party bosses whose sole aim is how to reach their party boss to the chair of different political posts.
These activists are practitioners of Party Politics. Their primary target is how to win elections and become part of the government. They do not employ social issues to win elections as they are of opinion that social issues will not win them elections. They mobilize people along their caste identities by propping up different caste faces and raking up emotive issues to exploit the caste sentiments. Like directors of the run of the mill Bollywood cinema they have reduced the art and science of politics to the formula based politics which can be illustrated by an example. In the last Bihar assembly elections (2010) Laloo Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan calculated that their castemen would automatically vote for them which would fetch them roughly sixteen-seventeen percent votes. They further reckoned that hurt by Allahabad High Court Judgment in Ayodhya Babri Masjid case the Muslim would vote for them which would again add some ten percent votes. Laloo then mulled that if he raked up the issue of ten percent reservation to the upper caste people, the upper caste would split and cause harm to the prospects of NDA. Then he went extra miles to rope in a Rajput leader of Saran Division. Laloo calculated that by aligning with him he would cause Rajputs to vote for his alliance. On the other hand Nitish cajoled his erstwhile detractor Upendra Kushwaha to return to his fold by offering him Rajya Sabha seat so as to lure the Kushwahas to vote for NDA. It is another matter that the Kushwaha of Bihar voted for Nitish even though Upendra did not canvass for his party during the assembly elections. Not only this, Nitish paid a visit to the kin of a gaoled Rajput politician in a move to counter Laloo’s attempts to woo Rajput votes. It is well known that Mayawati’s BSP never raises any public issue for the sake of mobilization of its support base. BSP entirely depends on caste sentiments of the voters and tries different caste combinations to win elections. Mulayam’s SP computed the loss and gain of aligning with Kalyan Singh; whether the gain of Lodh votes would more than compensate the loss of Muslim votes. In the same way Karunanidhi’s DMK makes alliances with different caste organizations. For the sake of Muslim vote Karunanidhi takes special care to align with the Congress. All the above cited politicians believe in social engineering rather than in social justice, depending on caste equations rather than on the issues affecting the sub-altern society.
The social politicians are radical while the party politicians are status quoits. The party politicians come into power in the name of doing everything possible for ameliorating the plight of the people belonging to the support base. In their party manifesto they promise to fulfill those issues which are of broadest nature, not specifically concerned with the core social base. Even these promises are rather election time public relation exercises. However, on assuming power, they do every compromise to pander to the ego of elite media and to cling onto the power by hook or crook. Consequently the party politician in power loses people’s support and has to relinquish power. Laloo Yadav is a living example of a party politician, who was once darling of the people, losing the people’s support and making way for Nitish Kumar, another party politician from the OBC group.
The party politicians know it very well that their survival and growth in politics could not have been possible without the sustained ground work done by social activists. They are actually political parasites who reap the harvest of the sustained ground work of the social activists and numerous people movements. Even then they maintain safe distance from social issues and movements. We may again cite the example of Laloo Yadav to show how party politicians benefit from social issues and movements. When Laloo Yadav became the Chief Minister of Bihar in March, 1990, no one knew how long would he survive in his post as in the past no backward caste Chief Minister had been allowed to complete his tenure by the upper caste forces. With the announcement for implementation of Mandal report in September, 1990, a social revolution was set in motion. Laloo Yadav, a product of JP movement, which had not much to do with social justice, suddenly became champion of social justice. Mandal brought windfall in the political fortune of Laloo. He challenged the upper caste hegemony and their arrogance and, thereby, ignited the hitherto suppressed anger of the dalit and backward castes against caste atrocities, discrimination and domination. The point to note is that he did this from the position of power that too when Mandal had presented him the opportunity. The Mandal momentum sustained him in power for the next fifteen years though after 1995 he had practically abdicated Mandal agenda. V P Singh had announced for implementation of only one recommendation of Mandal Report. Never in his innumerable rallies and public meetings Laloo raised the demand for implementation of all of Mandal recommendations and also as the person in power he could not implement none of those recommendations which were in domain of state government. History tested his commitment to Mandal agenda when during his tenure as Railway Minister in the UPA-I government the ghost of Mandal visited again to haunt the country this time courtesy Arjun Singh. Laloo kept mum when Mandal II was implemented in haphazard manner. Neither he nor his party raised any voice against obstacles put in by the vested interests in the way of implementation of OBC reservation in central government run educational institutes of higher learning. In fact none of the OBC party politicians barring a few exceptions has agitated for proper implementation of OBC reservation in job and education despite the fact that all of them would have been political non-entity but for the Mandal they are holding respectable positions here and there. In 2010 some seven thousands seats meant for the OBC were converted into general seats by the colleges of Delhi University. None of the OBC politicians, who have otherwise immensely benefitted from Mandal, have spoken against this day light robbery of OBC seats. The OBC party politicians have failed to appreciate the historical experience that it is basically the struggle for reservation policy and their eventual implementation [e.g. 1978(OBC Reservation in Bihar), 1990 (Mandal-I) and 2005(Mandal-II)] that have kept alive the backward caste politics in India. Assault on reservation policy from different sides (conversion of reserved seats into general seats and sending general list reserved candidates in reserved list, telecast of anti-reservation TV serial Armaano Ka Balidaan-Aarakshan on NDTV Imagine and movie like Aarakshan) are actually assaults on bahujan politics. The sub-altern party politicians actually believe in power for the sake of power and not for the betterment of the society they belong to. Power for the sake of power and politics for the sake of politics have become their motto. They join politics as people join government jobs. First, they aim to become MLA and MP. After becoming MP or MLA they aspire to become minister just as a government employee having served a number of years desires to be promoted to the next higher grade. A minister desires to become chief minister and a chief minister desires to become prime minister. They lead people not as a leader but as the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They seek to inspire or rather say influence people less by their thoughts and actions and more by glamour of power.
Party politicians are often degenerated social politicians which is exemplified by none other than Kanshi Ram who is credited for having written a new chapter in dalit politics. Kanshi Ram began his political career from BAMCEF, an organization of SC-ST-OBC employees of government and public sector. Kanshi Ram and his friends formed BAMCEF to arouse social-political consciousness of educated class of SC-ST-OBC people and to raise an elite army of organic intellectuals dedicated to the cause of social transformation. He then formed another social organization DS-4 in order to attract common sub-altern masses as BAMCEF was restricted to educated class. DS-4 was then transformed into a political party by the name of Bahujan Samaj Party. He could have proceeded on his political journey by maintaining organic relations with BAMCEF and DS-4. However, he cut all umbilical cords with social issues by distancing himself from BAMCEF and DS-4. He emerged as a political leader in blind pursuit of power by striking different caste combinations. His boldness coupled with total vacuum in dalit politics since the days of Dr Ambedkar more than compensated his otherwise sterile political agenda. Kanshi Ram thrived on simplistic, vulgar and context less interpretation of Dr Ambedkar’s dictum that political power is the master key. The entire life, struggle and works of Dr Ambedkar suggest that politics must flow from society, more specifically, from social problems, challenges and issues, that the social issues should be the soul of political agenda, that all political mobilizations and agitations should be organized around social issues. Dr Ambedkar exemplified it foremost when he as Law Minister agitated hard for passing of Hindu Code Bill in the Parliament and when he did not succeed owing to stiff resistance from conservative Hindus he did not hesitate in relinquishing the power. Philistinism of Kanshi Ram and his disdain for actual legacy of Dr Ambedkar became rampant when in an interview he openly declared that whereas Dr Ambedkar collected books he collected people. In fact almost all sub-altern party politicians are philistines and hard core pragmatist and detest the great legacy of social justice principles and practices as it put burdens and responsibilities on them for which they have not trained themselves.
For garnering votes and planning political strategy, the party politicians occasionally turn to the social politicians. The social politicians often work as intellectual workers and advisors of the party politicians. Resourceless as the social politicians are they bank upon the party politicians to get their agenda fulfilled, to whatsoever extent possible. However, the party politician would receive only which is politically expedient for him or her. Exploiting their resourcelessness the party politician often strikes a deal with the social politician according to which the latter is given a seat in this or that house. In the bargain the latter has to compromise his agenda. Ali Anwar built up pasmanda movement from scratch in the post-Mandal phase. He supported Nitish led NDA in November, 2005 assembly elections which took away the power from the hands of Laloo and elevated Nitish to the post of chief minister of Bihar. After coming into power Nitish sent Ali Anwar to Rajya Sabha. But in the process Ali Anwar had to heavily compromise his agenda. When he was in dire straits he could still publish a magazine called ‘Pasmanda Awaz’ i.e. The Voice of Pasmanda. However, when he became an MP and had resources to run the magazine he chose to close it. Not only that he also had to canvass in favour of BJP candidate Shahnawaz Hussain in the by-election for Bhagalpur Lok Sabha constituency much against his declared policy that secularism was an article of faith for the pasmanda movement. We also have the example of Prem Kumar Mani, the noted Hindi short story writer and social justice intellectual. Mani played a pivotal role in bringing most backward caste people including pasmanda muslims in JD (U) fold in 2005 Bihar assembly elections. He was later awarded with membership of Bihar Legislative Council. He started Jan Vikalp, a monthly Hindi magazine, dedicated to the cause of progressive and sub-altern politics, which he preferred to shut down after publishing twelve issues. The party politicians are wary of social politicians because of their intellect and commitment and finding the first opportunity the former do not hesitate in clipping the wings of the latter.
The crisis of sub-altern politics and their politicians (Laloo, Mulayam, Mayawati, Karunanidhi, Sharad Yadav, Nitish etc) lies is this dichotomy of social politics and party politics. The party politicians have simply refused to acknowledge that political energy is generated by social movements by tapping which they can sustain their politics on a long term basis that will benefit both, the people and the politics. All the above cited politicians are struggling to keep their mass base intact. They are resorting to all sorts of compromises which go against the very philosophy of sub-altern politics landing their politics and people in deep trouble.
[The writer is social justice activist and writer. He is attached with All India Federation of Backward Classes (OBC) Employees Welfare Associations headquartered at Chennai. He can be contacted on


Posts a comment

© Indian Dalit Muslims' Voice
Back to top