UP: Test for a Rambhakt Ruler

‘Ram Rajya’ is but another name for ‘Hindu Rashtra’. In recent years the RSS seems to have discovered that the concept of ‘Ram Rajya’ is more saleable to the masses than ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and also safer from criticism by pluralists.

By Arun Sinha

Of all the states going to polls next month Uttar Pradesh is where the BJP’s stakes are highest. The party has been using the state as a laboratory for testing a ‘Hindu model’ of government—a model that, in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, combines virasat (heritage) with vikas (development).

Yogi Adityanath was seen by the party as the best person to execute the model, so he was made the Chief Minister. And, in the party’s estimation, he has done exceptionally well. In all his speeches he proudly points to the Ram temple (virasat) with one hand and to the expressways and international airports (vikas) with another.

The stakes of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) are even greater in UP. The RSS is the driver of the Hindutva ideology. The BJP is only its vehicle. The ‘Hindu model’ of government combining virasat with vikas is the RSS idea. Those who follow the speeches of RSS leaders know that the Sangh, after winning the battle for the Ram temple, has now set itself a target for  establishing a ‘Ram Rajya’ in the next twenty-five years.

‘Ram Rajya’ is but another name for ‘Hindu Rashtra’. In recent years the RSS seems to have discovered that the concept of ‘Ram Rajya’ is more saleable to the masses than ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and also safer from criticism by pluralists.

When Prime Minister Modi talks of virasat and vikas they might seem like two ideas to ordinary people. But to the RSS they are not separate. They flow from the single idea of Rambhakti or complete devotion to Ram.

The ruler has to be a devotee of Ram (virasat) and bring prosperity (vikas) to all his people as Ram did to his subjects as the king of Ayodhya. Thus can the ruler establish a ‘Ram Rajya’. That is the ‘Hindu model’ of government the BJP has been trying to construct in UP.

Modi and Yogi have been at pains to prove that the ‘Hindu model’ of development is far better in social inclusion than the ‘social justice’ model of government of the Samajwadi Party. The ‘Hindu model’, they say, has brought benefits to all castes and communities, unlike the Samajwadi Party government that provided benefits only to a few castes. Social equality and social harmony have been truly established under their rule, they claim.

To support their claim they pointed to the massive support of the non-Yadav backward classes and dalits their party had amassed in the recent years. If you were to believe Modi and Yogi, UP was well on its way to becoming a ‘Ram Rajya’, with a Rambhakt ruler ruling as honestly, justly and non-discriminatingly as Ram and the people of all classes having absolute trust in his justice and fairness as the subjects of Ram had in Ram’s.

That it was not exactly so became clear soon after the elections were announced, when a number of MLAs of the BJP whose political careers depended on the support of non-Yadav backward classes resigned from the party.

The indication from their resignations was that their constituencies were dissatisfied with the BJP’s performance. And reports from grassroots corroborated that perception. There was a large gap between the government’s propaganda of what it had given to the lower classes and the realities of the life they were living.

Ground reports spoke of the lower classes in several villages being denied financial assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana to build pucca houses because they could not afford to pay the bribe the local officials demanded.

Such villages included Jayapur, one of the four villages in Varanasi district adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the MP of the constituency. In villages declared ODF (open defecation free) several poorer people still had no toilets. In other villages the toilets constructed had turned dysfunctional.

Yogi claimed he had made women’s life secure, but in the villages girls from poorer classes going out to work in the fields or tend the cattle still faced serious risks of being molested, raped and killed.

In 2020, there were 9,864 cases of assaults on women with intent to outrage their modesty in the state, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The total number of crimes against women in the state was 59,445 in 2018, 59853 in 2019 and 49,385 in 2020, the highest among all states.

In every case of injustice against the lower classes the perpetrators of the injustice happened to be from the better-off classes. The pradhans (panchayat heads) who demanded 20% cut from the financial assistance under the PM Awaas Yojana, the men who molested and raped girls in villages and the policemen who acted on the side of the perpetrators were all from the better-off classes.

The poorer classes of UP had always seen themselves as chhote log (small people) oppressed and exploited by bade log (big people). That did not change under the Yogi rule. That is why there is disappointment among the lower classes with the BJP.

What has added to their disappointment is the opposition of the BJP to a socio-economic caste census. The poorer communities among the backward classes have come to the conclusion that unless a caste census is done the benefits of public sector jobs and college admissions would never be distributed equitably.

The Yogi government has even refused to implement the recommendation of its own Social Justice Committee for the division of 27% reservations for OBCs into three categories of backward class (7 per cent), more backward class (11 per cent) and most backward class (9 per cent).

The discontent among the lower castes has busted the self-illusion of the BJP that it can bind all castes securely with the Hindutva glue. The lower castes want security, dignity and upward mobility and are not going to give up those concerns for the sake of Hindu unity. Hindu unity to them has proven to be a chimera which only perpetuates deep social and economic divisions.

Today Hindutva lies buried in the ruins of the social coalition the BJP built. The big lesson for the party is: It has to address the fundamental issues of social inequality, social injustice, economic oppression and administrative discrimination and corruption the chhote log face in their life before it can hope to bind all castes with the Hindu glue. But as the bade log make the core constituency of the BJP it could be the last thing the party might ever be tempted to do. And that is sure to leave the party in a state of perpetual dilemma. We will see how it resolves the dilemma in the coming years.

(Arun Sinha is a journalist and writer)

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