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Home > News > Columnists > Chandra Bhan Prasad

Is the elite blocking India's new social order?

May 29, 2007

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In societies the world over, the elite speak through the media. Polished and sophisticated, the media graduates into the collective voice of the elite.

India has a very formidable media establishment, and that is expanding at a very rapid speed. Though a welcome sign of a society under transition, the Indian media as it expands in terms of its reach, it shrinks even further in terms of objectivity.

'Will the BSP now step out of Uttar Pradesh to grow into a national party?' Questions such as these are often lobbed. In other words, to the Indian media, the Bahujan Samaj Party remains a UP-centric party with some symbolic presence here and there. Is that the truth?

How far and different in terms of distance, culture and demography the Andaman and Nicobar islands are from Lucknow. In the Lok Sabha election of 2004, the BSP candidate polled 1,122 votes in the Andaman & Nicobar islands Lok Sabha seat.

Darjeeling is equally far from the Andaman & Nicobar islands, but in West Bengal's Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, the BSP candidate polled 10,752 votes. Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district can be culturally an altogether an alien planet from Darjeeling, but the BSP candidate in the Tirunelveli Lok Sabha seat polled 3,606 votes in 2004.

In the deep central Indian Lok Sabha constituency of Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, the BSP candidate polled 72,391 votes in 2004. In far southeast Thiruvananthapuram, the BSP candidate polled 3,831 votes. In far west Jamnagar in Gujarat, the BSP candidate polled 5,306 votes. In the sleepy desert Lok Sabha constituency of Barmer in Rajasthan, the BSP candidate polled 19,616 votes. And in the very heart of south India, in the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency of Karnataka, the BSP candidate polled 26,725 votes.

Though the Indian media will not inform the public, the BSP, barring the Northeast, has evolved into an authentic all India party.

Brahmins in their paradise of the Gangetic belt have now accepted Mayawati as their leader, and its echoes are being felt beyond the BSP's region of triumph. Mahant Sudhirdas Pujari, the head priest of Nashik's Kalaram temple, has joined the BSP to replicate UP's Dalit-Brahmin thesis in Maharashtra.

It is worth recalling that Mahant Sudhirdas is the grandson of Ramdasbuva Pujari, who as the head priest of the Kalaram temple, had shut the temple's door when Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar launched his historic temple entry movement on March 2, 1930. Mahant Sudhirdas now apologises for his grandfather's landmark mistake.

Present day India is undergoing a spectacular social churning where society is demanding a new social contract. This new social contract, in turn, insists on a new social consensus where Dalits ought to be the leaders. The terms and conditions of this social contract are to be decided by the Dalits themselves. The Brahmin -- the average Brahmin to be precise -- is consenting to this new social contract.

The two national castes, the Dalits and Brahmins, are the logical legatees of Indian democracy. Pre-destined by their demographic spread and various other social factors, Dalits and Brahmins alone have the inner strength to own up pan-India as the land for all -- an all inclusive nation-State.

The Brahmins' predicament is history contextualised where they lack moral authority to lead India. As makers of a divisive and innately hierarchical social order, Brahmins in their self-belief are a partisan social class, suspected by all. The non-Brahmins -- Shudras or the Other Backward Classes -- to be precise got a mandate to lead India after the Mandal movement. None but the OBCs themselves betrayed that mandate.

In post-Mandal India, the OBCs got a mandate to de-caste India and build it on egalitarian lines. Constrained by a host of socio-psychological factors, the OBCs misinterpreted that Mandal mandate and began reconstructing the order of social hegemony. The Brahmin hegemony to be replaced by the hegemony of the OBCs.

This went against the mandate accorded to them in post-Mandal India. The consensus collapsed in less than two decades, and the OBCs lost the moral authority to rule and lead India.

Now, neither are the Brahmins acceptable to the OBCs nor the OBCs to Brahmins. But some social class must govern and lead India. The choice fell on the Dalits -- a third party arbitrator. That exceptional social mood was reflected in the UP assembly election where the society on its own chose Mayawati to rule the state, and if possible, extend that logic to an all India basis.

There are roadblocks though. India's elite, still rooted in its past and condemned by a arrogant regime, finds itself unprepared to consent to the already evolving new social consensus. As erstwhile rulers, the Indian elite continues to rule the urban economy, the centres of knowledge, media, new professions, culture, and hence, self-consciously, remain rulers of India. Needless to say, the elite are hopelessly far removed from political realities.

Economically marginalised, politically despised, and ideologically isolated, the average Brahmin along with its Rajput, Baniya and Kayastha associates, has been feeling the heat for over a decade-and-a-half. Mayawati's call of solidarity has galvanised them into a new social force.

While the average Brahmin is mandating a new future history for India, and hence a new social consensus, the elite seem to be blocking the same. By implication, the arrogant-affluent elite is putting roadblocks in the march of history, and that of democracy.

To make India a better place to live, the elite must modernise and moderate its conscience. That is the new aspiration of history. While Dalits are prepared to take the role history is demanding, the elite have to decide their own role and responsibility. Shouldn't the elite think of India as well -- a new nation-State -- all inclusive, vibrant and futuristic? Through its mouthpiece -- the mass media, the elite must now speak up a new language.

Dr Chandra Bhan Prasad will contribute a regular column to

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