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From: S G Naravane
From: S G Naravane
Modi's New Dalit Narrative Versus Entrenched Victimhood Politics –...Praful Shankar 4 Feb, 2016
Even today, in a post-liberalization India, Congress and Left leaders have preferred to prey on the insecurities of backward classes rather than look to make them a part of any aspirational growth story.
Ever since he entered the political arena, Rahul has made no secret of his desire to recapture the Dalit vote-bank for his party, which he, rightly but slightly simplistically, believes is key to the Congress' revival in the Hindi heartland.
The Dalits were a key component of the unbeatable Congress arithmetic during the times of Rahul's forefathers. The nineties saw them, along with the Muslims (who were another key demographic of Congress loyalists), migrate away from the Grand Old Party.
Yet, fortunately for the Congress, this migration was not towards the BJP but regional formations like the SP, BSP and RJD. The fact that the BJP was not the natural beneficiary of these migrations allowed the Congress to continue to play up its supposed stature as the only Indian party with a 'national' reach, even when they were out of power at the Centre.
Ever since they lost this large chunk of their electorate, the Congress' strategy at the national level has revolved around two major factors – its so-called 'secular' credentials which made the Congress an easier party to ally with for regional players who depended on the minority vote and the supposed 'limited' appeal of their chief rival, the BJP.
Until the early nineties, the 'limited appeal' of the BJP was said to be restricted to the upper castes and middle classes, primarily in North India. What the proponents of this theory meant to say was that even if the BJP did manage a healthy increase in vote percentages and a sizeable Lok Sabha tally, it would never come close to becoming the premier national player that the Congress was.
But the first major expansion of the BJP base, with the rise of powerful leaders from the OBC community like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharthi, burst this particular bubble and the saffron outfit rode to power at the Centre winning three General Elections in a row.
Nevertheless, even during the heights of the Vajpayee years, the punditry unrelentingly revolved around the idea that the 'Brahmanical' and 'North Indian' inclinations of the party's ideology would continue to keep the BJP restricted to certain geographical and social sections of India. The electoral losses the BJP suffered in 2004 and 2009 only served to reinforce the narrative that while the BJP had solidified its position as the major national rival to the Congress, it still had a long way to go in order to match the Congress' 'national appeal'.
But the election results of May 2014 showed the Congress and its 'secular' allies that the winds had begun to change in India's electoral arithmetic.
Statistics from the 2014 election demonstrated that the BJP had made significant inroads into several key demographics, most of which were never seen to be natural BJP voters, like the Yadavs, Marathas, South Indians, Tribals and Dalits.
The increasing popularity of the BJP amongst the last two demographics would have been the most worrying for the party's opponents – because it flies in the face of numerous leftist political and social theories revolving around the caste system which have been written with the sole purpose of deriding the BJP, the Sangh Parivar and the larger Hindu society.