The Welfare-Hindutva combination won the vote in UP

“Because things are the way they are, things won’t stay the way they are.” These words of the German poet Bertolt Brecht have always struck me as a socio-political analyst. In the context of the recent results of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, they become more relevant. Why did more Dalits vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? This question seems to trouble many political observers and part of the public. This surprised part of the metropolitan intelligentsia, which wants to see reflections of its ideology and its aspirations among the marginalized.

The UP election campaign can be seen as a text to explore this question. While caste, religion, women, youth emerged as overt categories of mobilization by various political parties, a pro-poor agenda did not emerge in political discourse. It is interesting to observe that the BJP has emphasized the welfare of the poor (“garib kalyan”) as one of the important components of its election campaign strategy. BJP UP election chief Dharmendra Pradhan has been emphasizing this program from its first meetings. When Narendra Modi started his rallies, his main argument was that the BJP had ensured development with special emphasis on social welfare programs such as Ujjwala Yojana, PM Awas Yojana, free ration, etc. Thus, the Dalits and the marginalized appeared in their discourse in two ways. , as labharthi (beneficiaries) and in the countryside around the poor. The BJP has tried to see Dalits and marginal communities not through caste but with a tinge of economic class. They managed to draw a wider circle through governance and development politics, unlike political parties that approached these communities through ideas of identity politics.

Interestingly, the welfare of the poor, central to liberal and socialist discourse in Indian electoral politics, is incorporated by the BJP into its development policy language through the ideas of garib kalyan and labharthi. Through its links with these beneficiaries, the BJP has attempted to create a new identity, that of a development-seeking community, recently named vikas yoddha by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The process of this change became quite clear when Modi said in one of his interviews that if caring about the poor and marginalized can be called a socialist concern, “I am a socialist in that sense”.

It is worth mentioning here that whatever changes we observe in the political choices of Dalits and marginalized people are not only the result of election campaigns, but the result of long-term development strategies adopted and implemented. work by the BJP to include these communities in their electoral base. . Calculated representation based on social engineering worked in favor of the BJP, but the new social chemistry formed by the party through its governance strategies also undermined various identity mobilizations.

The BJP’s Hindutva policy has attempted to approach vulnerable communities not only through state-led development initiatives. It benefited from the ground prepared by the Sangh Parivar and its organizations. For many decades, the Sangh has been working among Dalits and marginal communities providing education, opening hospitals, running health camps, building entrepreneurship. In the Vidya Bharti-inspired chain of schools, students from Dalit and marginal communities are growing day by day. The Sangh is also present among these communities through its various chains of seva hospitals. Hindutva policy has approached these communities symbolically and substantively – by providing dignity within the framework of Hindutva and also through the effective delivery of various social welfare programs.

It is true that humans cannot be free of identities, but sometimes new, broader identities become more effective than conventional identities. In this election, the Hindutva identity and the Labharthi identity worked together to cultivate a change in the political choice of Dalits and marginalized people. The way in which social projects initiated by the state or by social movements work to mobilize people in an electoral democracy is evident from the statement of a young person from a marginal community: “Jo hamari madad karega, hum uski madad karenge (Whoever helps us, we will help them)”. This sums up a new turning point in our electoral democracy. It also shows the marginal’s growing agency.

This column first appeared in the print edition of March 28, 2022 under the title “Drawing a bigger circle”. The writer is a professor at the GB Pant Social Science Institute

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