How impressive is the transition to the right in Indian politics? Is the supremacy of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India here to stay and the Indian National Congress (INC or Congress), the leaning center or the center-left, will not revive and, as some say, die a slow death?
The anti-colonial movement (from the 1920s to 1940s) was inclusive and attempted a “gradual revolution,” something that meant gradual caste social change, economic inequalities, gender practices, and regional inequalities with no radical change in any of the structures. It could be read as either too minimalist or conservative, or as the best path India could have gone given the diversity and the fact that it is an underdeveloped nation. The kind of change initiated under the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru enabled a functioning democracy, political freedoms, constitutional morals and universal suffrage for adults with a social democratic citizenship that was welfare-oriented and inclusive. The nature of the policies designed did not threaten the influence of the Hindu caste elites, while slow and minimal changes were possible at the end of the caste and class structure. The caste structure in India, similar to racism, is a rigid structure based on purity and pollution. It has become the source of both misidentifications and misallocations of resources, including basic access to water, land, and education among others. Indeed, it was the vast social and economic divide that made the hegemony of centrist politics possible. It was a caste Hindu liberalism and a classical constitutionalism.
Five decades later, India was transformed in the 1990s, with neoliberal reforms for faster growth and reservations about other backward caste (OBC) representing new emerging social groups. Reservations in India are pursued as a system of positive action in which certain groups considered to be disadvantaged are assigned quotas in the education sector and government agencies are proportional to the percentage of the population. Congress felt that it could cope with the new dynamic through faster growth and a more inclusive social process. In addition to neoliberalism, the welfare state was also retained. In fact, India experienced more prosperity, but also greater inequalities. The new imagination also led to an exponential increase in the subaltern (including OBCs, parts of the urban poor, landless agricultural workers, Dalits) and some parts of the aspirations of the Muslims, a wider spread of democratic imagination and a larger assertion, possibly for the first time beginning to threaten the Hindu caste. This was evident in the changing equation and the easing of the caste hierarchies, but in the great economic uncertainty.
At this point, both the Hindu caste and subaltern groups withdrew from Congress. The elites felt the threat of growing subaltern castes and their assertion of a greater share of resources, and it looked like Congress and its social democratic vision would further erode the influence of the Hindu caste. Ironically, the subaltern castes felt short-circuited by Congress. The change was insufficient to meet the aspirations that the social democratic discourse of Congress cultivated.
At the turn of the century India needed a new vision that could bring the elites back together with the subaltern aspirations, and it was here that Hindutva politics began to fill the space by assuring the Hindu caste elites that they would restore their “lost” glory to “Hinduization” of the “Hinduization” Society. The elites saw their interest in making India more Hindu. The subaltern castes were addressed through more representation, mobility than Hindus, mobilization of latent anger through anti-elitist discourse and local cultural idioms, and extra-institutional street mobilization. The social elites felt more secure when they abandoned the transformative constitutional vision, while the subaltern castes aided in cultured civilization and wanton disintegration of institutions that have always been seen as havens of Hindu caste privileges.
The commonality of Hindu identity assured the Hindu caste despite the shift in political leadership in the BJP to Shudra (lower) caste, including Prime Minister Modi who claims to be one Pichada (backward). Little by little, the BJP could be more inclusive in its leadership and political representation while still maintaining a core Hindu identity that is essentially a Hindu caste in its social character. Today the leaders of BJP can claim to be Pichada, without creating fear among the others. They can afford to do much less on “social justice” but demand more aggressive rhetoric in favor of the subordinate castes, while Congress may be more welfarist but cannot make claims for fear of offending the rest. From centrism, the congress has landed in no-ism. Shifting the balance of power to the subordinate castes for fear of being abandoned by the dominant elites, who may be a numerical minority but remain socially and economically powerful, cannot be more radical, nor can the elites thereof convince that her social democratic vision of the past is not as radical and that the changes she proposes will remain as minimalist as in the past. Paradoxically, the subaltern groups certainly see the changes brought about by Congress as minimalist and patronizing, and therefore perceived these changes to be more of an “insult to injury.”
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh Combine (both organizations are part of a larger conglomerate that often works together) began to spread the illegitimacy of the “appeasement” type of Congress. The misnomer of appeasement is a clear case in which Muslims and other minorities received limited tangible benefits. In the perception of the population, however, it was seen as a major tendency of balance in favor of Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis (a collective term for the tribes of India). which are also considered indigenous communities), which formed the traditional social base of the congress. BJP began by supporting the fearful Hindu caste and gradually included the already angry subaltern castes, also by doing the Muslims differently. BJP developed the technique of allowing Dalits and OBCs to remain caste entities for the purpose of representation but to become Hindu for the purpose of recognition.
The claim to a common Hindu identity enabled the BJP to offer subordinate castes more representation, to claim caste identities more openly, but to argue that they are above “jaat paat” (caste and community) and exercise violence against the Dalits, as well as politics how these spread as economically weaker section (EWS). EWS introduced positive action for the economically weak under the upper castes. These strategies for different purposes change the conditions of inclusion. You manage to create new aspirations and keep these aspirations waiting and in suspension. This game of the BJP-RSS Combine will continue until a new imagination breaks the impasse in a way that can produce radical changes that require the Hindu caste to be persuaded to share power and resources and restore their confidence in liberalism and its constitutional vision.
The Indian Congress is at this point today where they cannot find an Archimedean point. The problem with Congress as a whole is that it is stuck in its rank and profile. The recent protest by the G23, a group of high-ranking rebel leaders within Congress composed largely of caste Hindus and interviewing the Gandhi family, is a symptom of the fear of caste Hindu leadership within Congress. While Congress has made little major changes in its leadership to include more Dalits and those from backward castes. In this sense, the journey of Congress and the future of India are intertwined.
 Dalits used to be considered untouchables and are now the planned caste
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