Many narratives of social justice politics - Hindustan Times

Many narratives of social justice politics

Oct 03, 2023 03:13 PM IST

Bihar caste survey shows OBCs make up 63% of the population, impacting politics and governance. OBC mobilisation is expected to increase.

The Bihar caste survey report has revealed that the other backward classes (OBCs) constitute 63% of the state’s population; the Scheduled Castes are 19% and the savarn (forward castes) constitute only 15.52%. This caste survey, bearing the imprint of the social justice discourse in the state, will impact politics, governance and the social fabric of Bihar.

JD(U) supporters celebrate after the Bihar government released the caste survey report, in Patna on Monday. (ANI) PREMIUM
JD(U) supporters celebrate after the Bihar government released the caste survey report, in Patna on Monday. (ANI)

First, there will be enormous pressure on the state government to increase the OBC quota in jobs and education. Emboldened by the survey findings, the OBC mobilisation politics in the state is likely to become more aggressive in the coming days. Within the framework of OBC politics, dominant OBC castes are likely to make demands from the state based on their large numbers. The data from the caste survey will be used to frame their demands as ethical and moral, and to claim a bigger say in the distribution of state patronage and benefits. That majoritarianism in all forms, including within the space shared by historically oppressed communities, can hurt the soul of social justice politics is often ignored. That it may reproduce multiple marginalities in society is also glossed over.

The caste report certainly has a lot of potential for creating mobilisational capital in electoral politics. Also, it is likely to have an impact beyond Bihar: Similar demands could arise from states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi have already made it the main plank of the party’s future politics. Similarly, the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal will take credit for the survey. However, history tells us that the political consolidation resulting from such a census could also be contested, and in the long run, the contests will defeat the consolidation. In colonial times, the caste census produced not only consolidation of castes but also fragmentation within the caste society.

Politics centred on numerical (caste) majorities in society can also result in counter-polarisation, especially in electoral politics. For instance, OBC majoritarianism, if it turns overly aggressive, can lead to the forging of a coalition of castes at the extremes of the social order – Dalits and upper castes, for instance.

The electoral outcome of this caste “war” will depend on who gets to politicise this issue in their favour. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar has been working hard over the last few years to dispel the notion that it is against the OBCs. The fact is the BJP is no longer a Brahmin-Bania party; in fact, it has a large number of OBC ministers and the party is today represented at the Centre by an OBC prime minister. The party’s strategy has been to reach out to non-dominant OBCs and most backward castes (MBCs) through mobilisational politics and state welfare and patronage. In nine years in office, the BJP has cultivated a large group of beneficiaries (labharthis) through the effective delivery of the Centre’s social welfare policies. The MBCs constitute a huge chunk of these beneficiaries.

Through various kinds of innovative mobilisations, the BJP has evolved a “beneficiary consciousness” that has helped the party to build a constituency of labharthis. This constituency has helped the party dilute caste identity politics. Through panels such as Samajik Nyay Samiti in Uttar Pradesh and the Rohini Committee, the BJP has also introduced the discourse of sub-quotas that has empowered non-dominant OBCs and MBCs to demand their share in representation. The emergence of a politics of representation within the OBC spectrum is likely to stall any big political consolidation of OBC communities against the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Interventions in governance such as the recent Vishwakarma Yojana, which has led to the creation of a subgroup of 18 dastkar (crafts) communities that were politically invisible so far, have also helped the BJP to creatively thwart OBC consolidation against the party.

The BJP has recognised that social justice politics based on reservations has serious limitations. It has offered its version of “samagra samajik nyay” (holistic social justice) against the “bare representative politics” of the Opposition. “Samagra samajik nyay” is presented as reservations-plus, with the offer of development and other aspirations thrown in. The 2024 general elections will echo the contesting narratives of social justice offered by the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance and the BJP-led NDA.

Badri Narayan is professor, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. The views expressed are personal

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crickit, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Infographics & much more. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
Share this article
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, July 21, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On