Why Congress’ Path to Defeat BJP Hinges on Developing Bahujan Leadership

In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress remained in power only as long as parties with independent leadership from OBC, EBC and Dalit communities did not exist. Once these marginalised groups became aware and realized that they were merely being used for their votes while the Congress leadership remained Brahmin-centric, the grand old party began to weaken.
Why Congress’ Path to Defeat BJP Hinges on Developing Bahujan Leadership

New Delhi: The Congress achieved remarkable gains in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, driven by a robust campaign centered on social justice and promises of welfare measures. Led by its president, Mallikarjun Kharge, and top leaders (Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra), the party’s strategy resonated strongly with the electorate.

Highlighting welfare guarantees and emphasizing social justice initiatives proved pivotal, particularly in garnering support from marginalized communities across several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongholds. The Opposition coalition, INDIA bloc, spearheaded by the Congress, emerged as a formidable contender in Parliament, poised to play a significant role despite potentially being in the Opposition.

At rallies, Congress leaders passionately asserted concerns about BJP’s alleged intentions to amend the Constitution — a message that resonated deeply with voters on the ground.

However, when examining the party’s organization in various states, particularly in politically critical Uttar Pradesh, the grand old party appears to struggle to implement its own motto: “Jiski jitni sankhya bhari, uski utni hissedari” (Each community or caste group should receive representation proportional to their population share).

The party appointed 46 observers for Uttar Pradesh’s 80 parliamentary constituencies ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, giving Brahmins a lion’s share of 54.34%, followed by Muslims (17%), OBCs (10.86%), Rajputs (6.52%), Bhumihars (4.34%) and Dalits (4.34%).

Of the 46, 25 were Brahmins, eight Muslims (four each belong to OBC and general categories), five Hindu OBCs, three Rajputs and two each Rajputs and Dalits.

The Brahmin-Centric Dilemma in Congress

Harshly criticising the grand old party’s alleged Brahmanisation in Uttar Pradesh, a senior office bearer told The Mooknayak, “In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress remained in power only as long as parties with independent leadership from OBC and Dalit communities did not exist. Once these marginalised groups became aware and realized that they were merely being used for their votes while the Congress leadership remained Brahmin-centric, the party began to weaken.”

He said political groups the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Arjak Sangh played pivotal roles in raising this awareness. Despite its decline, he remarked, the Congress did not alter its Brahmin-centric ideology — relying on Muslim votes invoking fear of the BJP. “However, Muslims, though loyal to the Congress, strategically supported parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP) to counter the BJP.”

The 2024 CSDS post-poll survey reveals that despite allying with the SP in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress secured only 16% of the vote, contrasting sharply with the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s 80% among savarnas (“upper castes”). This shows the savarna society didn’t support the Congress, dashing hopes of the Brahmins returning to its fold.

“Despite the presence of all Brahmin leaders such as National General Secretary Avinash Pandey, MLA Aradhana Mishra and Rajya Sabha MPs Pramod Tiwari and Rajeev Shukla, the Congress failed to unify the Brahmin support,” he said.

The SP fielded four Brahmin candidates, but only Sanehi Pandey won from Ballia due to “local factors”.

“It clearly indicates that following the Congress’s defeat in Uttar Pradesh 35 years ago, an anti-Brahmin voting pattern has become the central voting pattern. Therefore, despite being a staunchly Manuvadi party, the BJP makes efforts to portray itself as a Thakur-oriented party. The BJP avoids overt Brahminical branding, unlike the Congress, understanding such a move could lead to its downfall similar to the Congress. Appointing chief ministers from the Yadav community in Madhya Pradesh, Saini in Haryana and Adivasi in Chhattisgarh and Odisha is a conspiracy to not appear like the Congress of the 1970s and 1980s,” he explained.

Shifting Political Dynamics in Uttar Pradesh

Another senior leader of the party who too is an officer bearer in Uttar Pradesh said recent decades have seen “myths of bravery” emerging among backward and extremely backward castes, attributing “imaginary battles” against Muslim rulers to them.

“For example, some in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s extremely backward castes, like Shumar Nuniya Chauhans, claim descent from Prithviraj Chauhan. Similarly, the Rajbhars identify with Salār Masūd Ghāzī, seeking Kshatriya status. Even Kurmis are adopting Kurmi Rajput identities, aligning with Sangh narratives, which resonate with Brahminical aspirations,” he said.

“Likewise, tribal communities such as the Kol and Bhil also claim ties to Rajput king Maharana Pratap, fueling BJP’s Thakurism. However, backward and extremely backward castes are aspiring to Brahmin status; their upward mobility aspirations are staunchly anti-Brahminical.”

He said the BJP cautiously courts a Brahmin supporter image; for instance, before the 2022 assembly elections, it spread rumors of Brahmin oppression under Yogi Adityanath’s government, aiming to quell discontent among OBCs and Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs). 

The Congress, the SP and the BSP, he said, fell into this trap, trying to demonstrate affinity for Brahmins, yet the OBC and Dalit communities saw Brahmins as entrenched in power, impervious to oppression. Brahmin votes remained steadfast, highlighting BJP’s influence.

“The distorted anti-Muslim narrative of medieval history and Mandalism by the ‘upper castes’ has facilitated the easy integration of backward, extremely backward and Dalit communities into anti-Muslim sentiments,” he said.

He continued, “Similarly, the Sangh has extensively worked on the narrative within the Paswan community associated with pig farming, asserting that Muslims consider pigs impure animals. Therefore, the Paswans started raising pigs to insult and degrade Muslims. The Sangh cites this as evidence of the competitive race among castes. Clearly, this narrative has emerged from the narrative of Thakurism based on anti-Muslim ‘valor’.”

The most intriguing aspect, he said, is that Ali Anwar, former Rajya Sabha MP of the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), an NDA ally, advocated for initiatives to uplift the socio-economic status of Mev Muslims during his parliamentary speeches. He referenced the same historical narratives, such as Hasan Khan Mewati’s opposition to Mughal Emperor Babar in the Battle of Khanwa, to support his arguments.

Navigating Brahminical Dominance Within Cong

The Congress is trying to fight against BJP’s Thakurism on the strength of Brahmanism. In this, even the Brahmins themselves are with the BJP. Therefore, if the Congress can learn anything from the post-poll surveys of the CSDS, it is that apart from its Brahmanization, it has no other option but to include the Bahujan narrative.

Rahul Gandhi seems prepared for this, but will the Brahmin leaders around him be ready for it?

Nearly two decades ago, the BJP was dominated by “upper-caste” leadership. At that time, it struggled considerably to gather a majority. In the Centre, it had to form alliances with parties representing backward castes like the JD(U), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) to come to power.

In states like Uttar Pradesh, it had to ally with the BSP, which had a Dalit voter base. Parties with bases in backward and Dalit castes cornered the BJP by portraying it as a party of the “upper castes” and demanded proportional representation in return.

However, that is history now. The current reality is that the BJP has emerged as the most inclusive party for backward and Dalit communities. It has brought about changes without hesitation, completely transforming itself at the grassroots level.

The Congress, he said, being the world’s oldest democracy, values controlling enduring messages, directly or indirectly, often through external pressures or conspiracies.

Struggles Against BJP's Communal Narrative

“Let’s understand this with an example. The BJP constantly accuses every Opposition party of Muslim appeasement. This accusation is persistent and continuous, intended to deter these parties from engaging with Muslim issues and to exert pressure on them. Essentially, it is the BJP’s strategy as a communal party to influence secular parties through these allegations, thereby restricting their ability to maintain a truly secular stance,” he claimed.

He offered three instances to cement his claims:

1. BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani organized a Rath Yatra from Somnath Temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya in 1990. This procession was not halted in Congress-ruled states because the Congress feared being labeled as Muslim supporters. It was halted in Bihar by Rashtriya Janata supremo and then Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

2. Similarly, to prevent the initial attack on Babri Masjid, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav gave orders, permitting the use of force. In such situations, the Congress was incapable of making such decisions due to its perceived image as a Muslim appeasing party.

“If we compare the SP and the RJD and the Congress in this context, we find that the SP during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s time wasn’t affected by this pressure, but the Congress easily succumbs to it,” he alleged.

3. After the electoral defeat in 2014, a Congress election review committee reported that the party’s loss was due to its image as a pro-Muslim party among Hindus. Rather than scrutinizing A.K. Antony’s report with facts, the Congress’s upper-caste leaders blew it out of proportion. 

“As a result, during Modi’s first five years, the Congress never took a public stand against state-sponsored anti-Muslim violence. This suggests that from 2014 to 2019, the Congress remained confined within the limits of secularism controlled by the BJP. Consequently, in the name of Opposition activism, the Congress failed to make any significant impact,” he pointed out.

Both the leaders The Mooknayak spoke said a significant fraction of the Congress leadership, composed of “upper castes” and feudal families, anticipated a return to power as usual. However, realizing this was improbable, Rahul Gandhi and his former allies defected and began a struggle against the Sangh and BJP-dominated establishment.

“This transformation allowed Rahul to emerge as a new, assertive leader after distancing himself from these associates within the Congress. In essence, the Congress’s expansion of its support base could serve as the bedrock for its resurgence,” they said.

They alleged all Brahmin leaders in the UP Congress — Pandey, Mishra, Tiwari and Shukla — refrained from addressing Rahul’s agenda of social justice, caste-based census and the removal of the 50% cap on reservations during speeches or press conferences.

These leaders — alleged the two senior party functionaries — were involved in efforts to undermine Rahul Gandhi’s social justice initiatives. “The commitment of these Brahmin leaders within the UP Congress can be gauged from the fact that on the final day of the UP Assembly’s Budget Session, Aradhana Mishra, leader of the Congress Legislative Party, praised the Yogi Adityanath government for improving law and order. But it was not categorized as activities opposing the party,” said the first leader.

He concluded by predicting there will be an intensified conflict between Rahul, the Congress party and the entrenched elites in near future. “If Rahul succeeds in sidelining conservative leaders within the Congress, akin to his grandmother, he could pose a challenge worthy of confronting the BJP. Apart from this, destiny has left him with no other alternative,” he added.

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