By Abhishek Jha:
That Jitan Ram Manjhi would become a threat rather than the token CM Nitish Kumar intended him to remain, was a not-so-welcome surprise that Kumar hardly saw coming.
In this context, it is very interesting to note what Jitan Ram Manjhi was saying before he earned the ire of the JD(U) leadership. His appeal to the Dalit community was that they unite and elect another Dalit Chief Minister when the state assembly elections take place in Bihar this year. What seemed to have irked Nitish Kumar is the degree of agency and independence which he was exercising. The moral responsibility that Kumar owned by stepping down after JD(U)’s abysmal performance in the 2014 LS polls, it seems, was taken to further bolster his position. Manjhi was just a shrewd political calculation for votes, as he clearly did not feel threatened by a person hitherto unheard of in Bihar politics.
And that’s where politics today is really alarming – in the clear uniformity within party ranks and the lack of a diverse representation (that’s not to say it was anything less troubling before).
What’s come to light in a recent survey by The Hindu, proves that Dalits, Muslims, and women seem to be mere transpositions in electoral calculations. If we are told that the CPI(M)’s apex body- which claims to work towards the empowerment of the oppressed and disenfranchised- is more upper caste than that of all national parties except NCP, it is a cause of worry. Electoral calculations have no doubt implied that it is not surprising today for a woman, Muslim, or Dalit to win an election. It might also have improved the conditions of people of these groups in that constituency (or even the state and the nation), but the question that stills begs asking is: Why have they not found a position of power in their own party if these parties (and all parties talk about it at least) claim to empower them?
If the BJP’s apex body- in an imaginary scenario- had adequate representation of women and Muslims, wouldn’t it get rid of the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath and distance itself from the RSS? We have all seen the discomfiture of Kiran Bedi when she was asked in a television interview about the comments made by them and their likes.
Sure, the elected members of the party can represent their community. But if they are to continue in the party they must toe the party line and the party line is decided in these very echelons, called variously as the politbureau, executive committee, and so on and so forth. So, although Jitan Ram Manjhi could become the Chief Minister of Bihar, there is little support for him to continue being there. And although Kiran Bedi was the face of BJP in Delhi, there is little chance that her voice would count in case she disagreed with her party on women’s issues. There have been several attempts to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill and it has seen some of the most dramatic outbursts of opposition. A group comprising roughly 90% of men deciding whether women should or should not be empowered appears comical in its proposition.
There was an interesting observation by a journalist that I came across recently. He said the Muslims- in at least the district that he was speaking of- have realised that they are potatoes and that they will be mixed with any vegetable by parties for electoral gains. What we believed of our political parties has only been reaffirmed by the analysis now available. They will blow any bugle that drowns their swearing.