By Sanjeev Kumar & Neha Singh
On 25th November, 2016 at 3:30pm, a team of IESAI met Professor Badri Narayan at School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Badri Narayan is working as a Professor at the Center for the Social History / Cultural Anthropology at G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. He has extensively contributed in the fields of socio-cultural history of marginalised communities in India, His interest area also comprises in linking the cultural resources with developmental action of the marginalized communities across the spaces. Prof. Badri's most recent work is a Biography of Kanshi Ram. His scholarship in the field of marginalized community, cultural studies and narrative study marks a significant contribution in the study of Indian politics.
The 2017, Uttar Pradesh elections hold a lot of importance as it sets the ground for a semi final match between the political parties before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Newer issues like demonetization, nationalism have taken the focus of politics in the contemporary times much replacing the age old issues like communal harmony etc. Uttar Pradesh elections shall prove to provide a litmus test to capture the citizen’s reaction on the newly developed issues. Also in the process 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections shall outlay its influence and interaction with the democratic values with the changing issues of the Indian society.
Here is a rendezvous with Professor Badri Narayan with the IESAI team that had Sanjeev Kumar, Neha Singh and Raushan Kumar Sharma on the issues relating to the Uttar Pradesh elections, 2017 and the changing equation between the democratic values and elections.
SK: Sir, regarding the forthcoming UP election, we want to know your standings and reflections. So now we have several important junctures, Firstly, in the month of June and July at the time of Una and Gujarat. Secondly, the incident of Rohith Vermula Case that occurred in Hyderabad Central University after which Mayawati gained mandate and popularity. Thirdly, a crisis in Samajwadi Party wherein Akhilesh emerged as a strong leader in some senses
Now we have another instance that is demonetization. Because of this we are half way to predict what will be the impact of this demonetization and other things in coming UP assembly election in 2017. So what do you think which issue will have a larger impact in the coming U.P. election and what will be the probable most important issues?
BN: I think there are various ways to understand the issue. Structurally, I think caste is going to play a very important role in the UP election. So every party has their base vote. The parties would try to maintain their caste based vote. Second is anti incumbency that will work in two ways. One shall be the issue of law and order and second shall be the issue of the growing aspiration for the development. Although Akhilesh is claiming again and again that he has done a lot of development but his development…. (thinks.) He has distributed pensions, he has distributed laptops, various kinds of things- we call it ‘gift politics’. So it is not development, it is a kind of gift politics. So gift politics may work or may not work, but the growing aspiration for development and the law and order would work as a strong issue in this election. So caste, base vote, law and order are going to benefit Mayawati. Because, she has a USP of making good law and order and then she has the growing aspiration for the development. Then at the third level- first, you have seen caste, second level primordial way and the third level is contemporary issue, like as you have mentioned demonetisation.
Demonetisation can impact in two ways which could be a divided impact. One, how the middle class which is very passionate about Modiji and they have the trust that he is going to help the country. That may work in favor of the middle class. But it may not favor all the middle class, specially the urban middle class. The middle class may move towards BJP, because of the corruption and black money fascination, Second reason may be the surgical strike or the politics of nationalism or hyper nationalism you can say. That can also work but this will work on the middle class domain and for poorer I think demonetization is going to create anti-governmental mobilization because they are suffering and their suffering is not tackled by the state.
State thinks that this is temporary and whatever we have done is a wonderful thing. The election is near and since it is very near, in this condition it may work. If it would have been longer period then it may have not worked. So they want to assert upon it but in that process they are somewhere ignoring the suffering of the common people. And I do not know that how people are taking it. I am going on the field and trying to see how people see the surgical strike. Because every day people are being killed, army people are killed on the border and they are projecting it as martyr, but people who lost their family members they say ‘hum badla lenge’. They must have been thinking somewhere that because of these policies, confrontational politics, we are loosing our family members. But no-one is saying it because of nationalism. The grip of nationalism is so high and strong so if you say something different, then that will be called as anti-national. So people are silent on that ground. But they are critically looking at this whole surgical strike also.
SK: Sir, Demonetisation is going to impact this UP election? What do you think who would it favor?
BN: As I told you earlier, it would work both ways. Some part, some portion of population may favor BJP because of that, but most of the people who are poor dalits, marginals, peasants may go against the government.
SK: So, if people, for example let us say the 60% of the voter who are against BJP. Then these 60% voter will be divided between SP and BSP? If not, then where will they move? And what logic will drive them?
BN: I think Mayawati has emerged as a strong anti-demonetisation politician in UP. Akhilesh also criticized the government but he did not take it further. So he gave a statement and became silent. Mayawati is consistently reacting on that issue. So she has developed a capital i.e. anti-demonetisation capital, much the same way Mamta Banerjee did in West Bengal.
SK: If we look at the incidents in Bihar, Laloo took the issue of reservation and he capitalized it, so do you think that in the same manner Mayawati will take the demonetization issue and capitalize it.
BN: Yes, she will do that.
SK: What do you think whether the new issues would be readily taken up over the older issues?
BN: I think, demonetisation may create broader mobilisational space of the marginals, commoners and the poors that may be beyond caste and religion and that can benefit BSP. Already demonetization is observing the mobilization of Muslims in favor of BSP. They are making up their mind to support SP but this issue facilitates their movement towards BSP. So those who are even petty business men they can go towards BSP.
NS: As we have seen in the past 2012 election and further if you go back and see that BSP has always had a caste and class dimension among its supporters, in the sense that the poorer Muslims vote for BSP and the richer Muslims for the SP. However, it has not been the same case for dalits. So, I mean with the implementation of the demonetization policy, how do you see this caste-class dimension for the BSP point of view? Also, do you think upliftment of demonetization would give a push to BSP’s bhaichara samiti that it was conducting as the social engineering strategy?
BN: Yes already, but I think BSP has no time to make another bhaichara samiti, because election is two-three months away. So BSP will not form new bhaichara samitis. They will work on whatever they have done. But it will facilitate their impact like the bhai-chara samiti between dalits and Muslims that will gradually become stronger. Bhai chara samiti of baniyas may work a little. Brahmans, I cannot say much, because although Brahmins have no political space in BSP or even not in BJP. So some of them may think to stick with the BSP, some of them would not think of BSP at all. Brahmans will emerge as a fractured community. Some part of Brahmins will vote for BJP because they are part (thinks). And some part may vote for BSP and also Congress, because Congress is asserting and trying to mobilize Brahmins.
NS: So sir, with these new issues emerging, if you compare 2012 UP election with that of the coming 2017 UP elections, do you also see the strategical differences taken up by these political parties? How do you see these differences?
BN: Strategies are the same like mobilizing caste and religious groups. But this election is giving them new issues to mobilize like, demonetization. In 2012 assembly election Mayawati was in power. This Mayawati now is in opposition.In 2012 corruption was the issue against Mayawati. This time Law and order is the issue against Akhilesh. Another interesting thing is that there is anti-incumbancy against government and there is a lot of anger against SP, but people are not very upset with Akhilesh. They Appreciate Akhilesh. He is a good boy but he is not working well. So anti-incumbancy may not hit at that level. But certainly it will work. But this election fortunately or unfortunately gave the new issues like anti-incumbancy against BJP or issues against BJP; like demonetization and Mayawati needs that. Because, now there contest is not between SP and BSP, the way it was in 2012 election, rather it is between BSP and BJP. So BSP has to create issues against BJP and demonetization. Fortunately or unfortunately in this election Mayawati has issues to work against BJP and SP.
SK: Sir, nowadays we have seen new voters who are attracted towards a new face and new issues. For example, during Modi Lahar in 2014 election caught the attention of the new voters. But this time as the researchers say there is a deadlock among BJP, BSP and SP. We see that Akhilesh is presenting himself as a good person, the way Nitish did in Bihar. He brought Metro in Lucknow and even on demonetization issue he was active, so is it possible that Akhilesh can create his own image among the voters. Remaining parties are working on the old issues in this case Akhilesh might emerge as strong hero figure. ?
BN: Look, structurally UP society is working in the same way so only development cannot work. That is why I have said development ‘plus’ i.e. the caste, religion and various things. But the problem would be that Akhilesh is leading the party which is the party of goons. It has created an image. I am not saying that it is the party of goons. But the image of the party that is presented is that of a party of criminals and goons. So there is a contradiction between the image and reality. So that will brush with the image of Akhilesh. He is trying to build the image with lots of advertisement, lots of TV managing everything is happening and also the Agra expressway. But I think Akhilesh who is the leader of the Party and creating a different kind of image is also facing the whole contradiction from the family and party. So there also exists the contradiction of two kinds of politics. Akhilesh wants to work and change the image in a positive way, people understand it, but again he is with the same party. If he would have come out of SP and formed a new party he might have gained a lot of popularity, but he could not do that so people think that ultimately you want power, that’s why you are succumbed to the ….
SK: Sir, Among all these things, what will be the vote bank of BJP?
BN: BJP shall see a forward caste, then non-Yadav OBC caste, like Mauryas, Patel (some parts) then MBCs …some portion of MBCs and they are … mostly they are going … to back.
… And Baniyas … but then may be fragmentation in the Baniyan vote, because of this demonatisation; especially petty baniyas. Aartis, then sailors…there are something a lot.
NS: Sir, we generally have seen that the Thakurs also play an important role in the UP elections. They are a determining factor too. What do think shall be their bend of mind in this election?
BN: I think, what can be seen in this election, except Dalit and Yadav … everybody is going to fragment, because dalit is the vote bank of Mayawati and Yadav is the vote bank of SP. Rest of the votes… even forward votes..(thinks)..you can find fragmentation. Some parts of Thakur vote will go to BJP, some part will go to Congress, some portion of that may go to the even best of the candidates. If they have the candidates from the Thakur Caste, they would then vote for the Thakur Candidate. Candidate based on the caste would the preference of the people. That will also work, so, I see, the communities … because Thakurs… they have the location of base vote. I think BJP has no caste based vote, they have forward caste, they think this is our politics, that’s why they support forward castes, Brahmin, Thakurs and Kayasthas. But, I told you Brahmin vote is going to fragment between BSP and BJP and the Congress. Similar, Thakur votes are going to fragment between BJP, BS and congress and many other also.
NS: Sir, how much you see the prospect of Congress in this election?
BN: Congress will do better, I think, from the last election.
SK: Is there a possible of Mahagathbandhan between SP and Congress?
BN: I don’t see. Actually, may be … because Congress is trying to form an alliance with the (thinks)…. Their first preference is Mayawati, but Mayawati is not going to form an alliance with anyone. Mayawati says, that we don’t form alliance with the parties, we form alliance with the caste, community … direct alliance with the community. So, they don’t want political parties as a ‘chamcha.’ They have to see their vote too. So, they are saying that, we are not going to form an alliance. If, they form it would be very winnable alliance. But Mayawati can form an alliance when she will come under pressure. When she will understand that without forming an alliance BSP is not going to win, then she will form; but fortunately this demonetisation has given a big leap to the Mayawati politics.
SK: Sir, if we see BSP’s ideology is it nearer to Congress or she is progressing Kanshiram’s and Baba Sahab Ambedkars ideology? Is she is heading towards a practical ideology?
BN: I think, she is very practical and has a pragmatic ideology, you can say. But she is using Kanshiram’s structure, which he had built up. She is using that, also sometimes she talks about Ambedkar. She has used Ambedkar as a symbolic capital. So, but she is very heading towards pragmatic, practical politics for acquiring power and playing the politics of power.
SK: Do you think Sir, if Kanshiram would have been there in present times then what would have been the face of the politics of Uttar Pradesh?
BN: It would have a new BSP or different kind of BSP and a different kind of politics. If Kanshiram would have been alive (thinks)… I think Mayawati would have become Prime Minister by this time, because of him. He was a wonderful planner, architect, strategy maker, Mayawati has not that kind of … vision.
NS: Sir, when we talk about Mayawati, we cannot ignore women aspect of politics. In last election, we saw the 60% of women voters turn out. So, what would be their turn out in this election and what shall be their bend of mind?
BN: Look, woman is not a homogenous group, Dalit women will certainly favor Mayawati, because of them Behanji is a big symbol for them. And other women will vote them, will vote Mayawati not as a woman, but as a protector of law and order. Law and order issues are faced by women a lot. So, they may move towards Mayawati on that ground because of the USP which Mayawati has built. Forward class women will not go for Mayawati. Poor may vote for her but not higher caste, richer or middle class. Though, like even taxi wallas of uber and ola; they support, demonetization. But the taxi wala or auto wala, who are not getting more than 10-120 thousands they criticize demonetization. If, you turn as a middle class, then you can’t be critical, because you see everything by your own lenses. Before that you are critical about … and that class is bigger class. Lower middle class, poorers, dalits, marginals… this is a huge class.
SK: Sir, in terms of Muslim voters; they don’t waste their vote. They go with the party which is going to win. So, in that sense they can go to the SP or BSP. It depends upon the future possibility. Do you think BSP’s strategy is to mobilize Muslim voters if we consider Gauraksha issue?
BN: No, no, BSP’s strategy is not ‘Gau-Raksha’ issues. BSP’s strategy is assuring people that there would be no communal riots... when will come in the power. So giving them confidence, making them fearless about the fear of the communal riots and then the fear of BJP. And proving winsomeness that; if Muslim will support BSP, we will defeat BJP. So, BSP has simple Mathematics is Dalit plus Muslim. Dalit is 21%, Muslim 20%. So, 41% total. If even 10% Muslims will vote Mayawati, Mayawati will win.
SK: Sir, recently you have developed the new concepts of ‘development plus’ and ‘stepney votes’ as the key mantras of wining election. Would you please elaborate.
BN: Yes. Development (+), as I told you is when all this media, political scientist started development. Development that time when I was working in the field and saw was not a development. It is development (+). Development is a broader jacket, under which you can find the caste like BJP was talking development in 2014 election, but forming alliance with Apna Dal to secure Kurmi votes. Amit Shah was attending caste rallies, organized by various dalit and middle caste. So, and then Amit Shah went to Ayodhya, sat with the Mahant Nritgopaldas, he visited to Gorakhpur; sat near the leg of Mahant Avaidyanath. So, you can see, this is development (+). Development with the caste, religion and politics of religion. Similarly, it was in Madhya Pradesh, where Shivraj Singh Chauhan had organized Ramkatha, in which there was a life size portrait of Advani and Modi and given dakshina to those who came for Ram Katha, Shrawan. Khana Khilate the, they used to give them money. So, I was observing in U.P., Bihar and Madhya Pradesh that it is not development but it is development (+). Second is stepny votes. These are caste based, as I told you, there are base votes. Base vote is when every party those which are successful in democracy have developed their base vote. Base vote is the basically dependent upon caste. The leaders who come from the caste, the concerned caste; they prefer to vote that party. But, there are castes who can come to you because of various kinds of compulsions, and various kind of competition mobilization in democracy. They may come as stepny vote. Stepny votes means they came for some time, they may … any time they may leave you and they can go to other parties. Stepny khul jata hai. Your relation become weaker. To apka “nut-bolt’, kara hona chahiye. If the ‘nut-bolt’ is not stronger, they will leave you. Like Brahmin with the BSP… a stepny votes. Similarly, OBCs, especially Apna Dal supporters from kurmi caste are the stephany votes for BJP. Success depends in the electoral democracy that how much you are growing the number of stepny votes. Jitna Adhik se adhik (you) accumulate your stepny votes … because base vote is fix. And the stepny vote can. And the third level is the swing votes. There are swing votes… they can decide their voting choice just before the election; last moment of the election. But stepny vote is a very planned effort. It is not like swing votes. Its not like sweeping votes.
SK: What is the percentage of these stepny votes?
BN: Stepny votes are basically based upon caste … alliance with the caste; like BSP link the MBCs with the Dalits. So, the MBCs may… they may consider a base vote in the future… but not now. If, the Kurmi comes to BSP, they will work as a stepny vote. So stepny vote is very temporary phenomena. But, it alliances with the caste and can be calculated upon the number percentages. You can access it on the basis of the percentage of the caste. Like, if Kurmi decided in this election to vote for BJP in a big way, then the Kurmi is work as stepny vote for BJP, but the nature of the BJP is changing now. Now BJP is emerging as the party of OBCs. So, may be in the future the OBC emerges as their base vote and the forward become their stepny vote. Now, forwards are their base votes and OBCs are their stepny votes. So, that’s very interesting shift, may happen in the future.
SK: What we witnessed in Bihar, Sir, and the other election also, that election based on one or two issues. So, do you think that after demonetization, if it sustain, then what will happen to Ram Temple, Universal Civil Code, Article 370 and so and so. Polarization will work to much!
BN: I don’t I see, if demonetization continues, then demonetization will become the big issue. It will overshadow other issues. Other issues will not be important. But, if the impacts of it doesn’t sustain then the kind of issues can come such as Ram Janmbhoomi….
SK: Sir, finally, I would like to ask you about the ethos of Indian democracy. What we perceive these days is a kind of decline in democracy, deficit in democracy… parties are blaming (easing) each other and media also engaged in gaining power…and the real issues and essence of democracy is neither understood not practiced. Media, parties and even the people are also misled. They don’t know what exactly happens and to do. They are misunderstanding and confusing their duties toward democracy. But what Baba Sahab Ambedkar also defined democracy as a mode of conjoining and communicated experience, which is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence. So, when will this respect be a communicated experience? Do you think this kind of meaning can be realized? How far we are?
BN: We are completely opposite. For us, democracy is just the division of the state through various kinds of pre-mordial identities like power of caste, number of caste, leaders of caste. So, we have left somewhere behind the values of democracy. Democracy is not just a value for us, but it is for us a kind of power sharing activity. They stake it in. State led policies, state led projects. So, take share in that and distribution of those proposed resources to the people are only meaning of the democracy and through elections to elections. And then distribution of resources through premodialize identities and the distribution of resources, some time it empower communities and sometime it disempower communities. So, that’s why I say (proposed) then democracy is like a double sword. The one land it is empowering the communities and the other hand it is disempowering the communities. So, it is very interesting nature has emerged in Indian democracy, that a different form that Ambedkar has aspired. The way it works in other countries, in the western countries. It has taken its Indian colour and Indian colour is the colour of the this kind of caste and religion and other things.
SK: So, do you see any kind of possibility in the process of realization of the essence of democracy?
BN: I think, not fully, but, I see when society comes in the crisis, then our democratic arche emerge, like whenever (invisible) … impose and you can see people come on the road democratic values work actively and force people to come out and speak. But, when society is operating in a normal mode, then different form of democracy works in the society. So, it is very difficult to compartmentalize it in black and white or democratic or non-democratic.
SK: In last few years the politics of protest has emerged, particularly after Anna Movement where they try to protest the existing system but at the same time people blindly support the leader and party. So, there are two actions working simultaneously. How do you see this?
BN : No, even in protest politics leaders like Arvind Kejriwal emerged. So, it again developed the icon or a kind of followers. He has blind followers who are supporting him. Those who opposed Kejriwal later turned out. So, ultimately, this protest politics culture is producing the same vicious cycle of leaders and politics.
SK: So, sir, what kind of message you would like to give to the contemporary leaders and new generation towards making democracy efficient and progressive?
BN: I think they should be critical in approach. They are always self-critical and critic of the structure of the dominance. Rather they should be constantly engaged in deconstructing the dominance and then they always stand with the right case. Every day the society is forming the layers of dominance. Even within ourselves we have several kinds of very dominant modes that emerge in our personality. So, we always need to deconstruct ourselves and structure of the dominance.
SK: Thank you sir.