The Elephant and the Lotus
It is very important that we, who are interested in the growth of nationalist forces in India, recognise the portents coming out of Uttar Pradesh. It is important that we realise it fast and it is crucial that we work on it before it is too late for the nationalist movement .
The rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party as an alliance of large and varied social groupings is in itself both a danger and an opportunity and a sign both of good and of bad portents on the horizon of Indian polity .
It has been a historical experience in India that the path to Delhi lies through the heartlands of Uttar Pradesh. It is here that the battle of ideas, if not the battle of votes is won or lost. The spectacular rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a national force primarily on account of landslide that it won in the assembly election victory in 1991 . The Bahujan Samaj Party is poised to make that sort of impact on Indian polity, if only it manages to play it’s cards correctly. It is another matter as to whether the Bahujan Samaj Party would be able to effectively strategise it’s way forward considering that it is lead by the volatile Mayawati and how she will able to navigate through the challenge by Diggy Raja and hs cronies, who like the last courtiers of a dying empire , rely more on intrigue than battle to control their vast empire slowly but surely going out of their control.
To analyse what the BSP means it is important that we understand what it stands for in the larger matrix of Indian social history. The terms of “ bahujan samaj” and the “sarvajan samaj” is nothing new. They trace their origin from the Buddhist traditions . The “bahujan samaj to the saravajan samaj” represents a society of the “majority” and then finally a society for everyone. It purports to preach a false sense of equality. Fundamentally this idea represents a pole of Indian polity for thousands of years.
The other pole is the one which many identify is the pole consisting of Dharma, tradition, culture, security and development which can be classified under a broad heading as ‘nationalism’. This is the idea of “sanatan dharma”, that is the tradition of the ages, or the idea representing the eternal ideas of India. The greatest selling point of the idea of “sanatan dharma” is it’s call to be able to protect “svadharma” of every individual under the broad rubric of “jati dharma, kula dharma or janapada dharma” amongst various other “dharmas”. The “ sanatan dharma” attempts to create a society which is not entitlement based but based on a structure of interlocking “duties”( for the want of a better word ), a society of order, progress and need I say controversially of “hierarchy”.
Interestingly, just as it took forty years the idea of “sanatan dharma” to assert itself as a pole of Indian politics against the westernised ideologies of the Communists and the Congress, it took the idea of “bahujan samaj” another twenty years to become a viable pole of Indian politics.
The Congress represents the past, the past borne out of a colonial existence and a colonial ideology of “progressive liberalism”. It is a party bereft of ideology except that of venality and western acceptability. It exists merely because it had a once glorious past which is fading fast, inspite of numerous false dawns. The Congress just as it had vacated the “nationalist” pole of the Indian polity in the 1980’s and 1990’s since it was incapable of changing itself is slowly but surely vacating the space at the other end for the same reason. The problem with the Congress is it is becoming more and more an interlocutor and the representative of the west and western ideas in India than an indigenous Indian party. It represents the “ancien regime” in India, the Indians who inherited India from the British and who believed that India had to be saved from it’s people. The Bahujan Samaj Party ( BSP ) therefore has the potential to deal the final blow to the Congress by taking away it’s traditional supporters of those who are opposed to the prevailing traditions of their society, by indigenising the challenge – the challenge to traditions in an Indian format. Till date whether you were “harijan ” or “poor” or “woman”, the only way you could challenge the status quo in your society was to adopt western ideas , which was exemplified by the Congress but it is for the first time the Indian polity may have an option to chose an inherently Indian ideology which rejects the status quo of traditions in India .
Those who look at the developments in UP and who harbour a healthy hatred for Macaulay like all of us would be glad that the ghosts of the colonial past is being put to rest but it is important here that we keep in mind the danger that the idea of the ‘bahujan samaj” possesses for India and the reasons why it should be combated .
The lessons of the story of the Vishnu Purana relating to the ideas of the Buddha is very instructive. The Vishnu Purana says that the Buddha is treated as Avatara since he exposed all the atheists and hidden nonbelievers and converted all of them into his followers which was a great thing. Initially the Purana says that Buddha obtained a very vast following but it says then he started preaching that there was no need of either spiritualism or tradition, which eventually lead to his followers preaching unbounded individualism and materialism which finally lead to complete anarchy in society and utter collapse of social and family structures. A plain reading of the history of Buddhism in India , it’s spectacular growth in context of numerous challenges to then traditional society and then it’s preaching of complete materialism leading to it’s final ignonimous demise in complete social anarchy , bears out this criticism . The Purana continuously relates that the logic and the rhetoric of the Buddhists was extremely persuasive and most believed it .
The present danger with the BSP is that it’s ideology would be a facilitator of western ideas and interests which being presently on the back foot , would use the umbrella of the ideology of the “bahujan samaj” rhetoric to resuscitate themselves and further attack the social and moral structure of India in the guise of attacking tradition. It is not too far to see the Communists, the Liberals,the Islamic radicals and the Christian evangelicals banding together to make common cause against the “traditions” of the Indian society.
In the end however “sanatana dharma” won out against the “bahunjan samaj”. Social collapse was one reason . The incapability of the Buddhists to effectively combat foreign invasion was another. I think however the most important reason I believe was the ability of the “ sanatan dharma” to be flexible enough to adopt the ideas and rhetoric of the “ bahujan samaj” , specially regarding equality and combine it with the tradition of the eternal India , that is it’s ability to make the Buddha into the Buddha -deva. The Shrimad Bhagawat Geeta was the source and inspiration for such social engineering.
The lesson in Uttar Pradesh lies precisely there. It is imperative that the BJP reach out to the members of the “bahujan samaj” if it is to win back the battle of ideas in which it seems that it is presently losing the initiative . For that the BJP has to adopt the rhetoric of the “bahujan samaj” , just as the “bahujan samaj” as in the initial days of the Buddha attempted to adopt the rhetoric of “sanatana dharma” with spectacular success . It has to combine this with it’s tremendous strong points on tradition , culture , security and development . Wherever the BJP has been able to make the move of combining the rhetoric of the “bahujan samaj” within the contours of the ‘sanatan dharma” it has succeeded spectacularly , whether it be in Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat. The road to Uttar Pradesh and then final and complete majority lies through this road previously travelled .
It is not that the BJP has not travelled on this road in UP before but only it seems to have lost it’s way in it’s obsession to add up jati’s in order to complete non existent calculations and victories. It is essential here to remember that when the member of the Pasi jati laid the first brick of the proposed Ram Janamshtan Mandir , it was as imaginative piece of “bahujan rhetoric” within the contours of “sanatana dharma” as there could be . For once the “bahujan” believed that he would enjoy equal status as any in the new “Hindu” society.The movement eventually lead to the formation of the first BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. We need to go beyond such flourishes and frame long term policies which will tie in the “bahujan samaj” with “sanatan dharma”. Mere half hearted poll gestures are neither relevant nor believable both in the long and short term , specially since our ability to deliver on our promises regarding the Ram Mandir is not something to be proud of .
We should understand that it is crucial that we get our house in order as the threat of the BSP is much greater than of the Communists or the Congress simply because the BSP signifies the fructification of the other great pole of Indian politics arising like an echo from the past traditions of India. The lure of the BSP is now greater than ever before and it is time that we not only work towards fighting it in elections but also fighting it like an ideology which represents a clear and present danger to the Indian society both in the long and short term , and to that end we must prepare ourselves for the long haul .
(Satyananda is a friend of CRI)