Opinion

Identity Politics and Bharat Ratna: A Deep Dive into Awardees’ Allegiances

This is the age of identity and not ideas. Market driven ideas assimilate the identity and promote their ideas through selling the identity of even those who have been diametrically opposed to it. Hence, it is not important what are the ideologies of individuals as well as their acts but their jaatis. So the farmers should now forget everything and feel good as Chaudhury Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan have got the Bharat Ratna, Telugus should feel great about PV Narsimharao getting the award. MBCs should not seek representation in jobs and see what has been done to them, but must feel happy that all their issues are resolved

The Bharat Ratna award to late prime ministers PV Narsimha Rao, Chaudhury Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan has been welcomed by all. I have always stood against the state award sponsorship as it basically means that your work is ‘liked’ and ‘appreciated’ by the top leadership. Awards have always been political. Congress gave these awards to Rajiv Gandhi, MG Ramchandran, Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar. In 1977, when Moraji Desai led Janata government took over, they abolished all these awards given by the state including Padma Awards. When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, she initiated them again but it is a fact that most of the time such awards have been controlled by the ruling party.

There is a commonality in the choices of these awards. Right from Karpoori Thakur till P V Narsimha Rao is the relationship of these leaders with RSS and BJP. Charan Singh actually walked out of the Janata government where he was Deputy Prime Minister, and later formed the government with the support of Indira Gandhi. In fact, many felt that it was Charan Singh and his ambitions which resulted in the fall of the Janata government. Charan Singh ensured that Indira Gandhi was jailed and humiliated as all the court cases and commissions did not yield anything politically except that he became prime minister and has the record of not facing the parliament.
Narsimha Rao’s relationship with top leaders of BJP and RSS was well known. He did not act to stop the Babri Masjid demolition and was all the time manipulating things to keep the Gandhis out of the power politics. That apart, Rao opened up India’s door, hailed as father of economic reform but can be safely said that his acts demolished Congress and its socialist tag. Under Indira Gandhi, Congress worked to bring parity in the lives of SC-ST-Minorities but Rao killed everything in the post Mandal identity politics. If Congress is completely decimated in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the credit goes to Narsimha Rao.

Karpuri Thakur’s relationship with Jan Sangh is well known. He formed a government with them and was needed by Jansangh in the same way as Nitish is needed for BJP. The upper caste BJP can’t take on the might of Lalu Yadav and hence they needed this Maha Dalit and Ati Pichhda game. Nitish knew it well that on his own, he would never be able to do that and hence despite 9 terms, it is not the hunger of Nitish kumar to be in power but to never allow the Lalu family to have political domain in Bihar. The upper caste rule can only be ensured if there are divisions in the OBCs. Unfortunately, the role of powerful OBC leaders in denying a space to Karpoori Thakur resulted in his association with the RSS and BJP.

MS Swaminathan is overhyped, for so called MSPs. Kisan’s issues are not MSPs alone. His theory would only help the power elite of the farmers and ultimately pave the way for the industrialization of the farm sector.
If you have read Charan Singh and his thesis, you will realise it is nothing about farming but more to protect the interest of his community. In his book on Zamindari Abolition, Charan Singh’s entire focus remained on demolishing the USSR model of Collective farms. He gives American, British, French and German examples but I have not read words of sympathy from Charan Singh for the Dalits, landless farmers. How is Charan Singh not aware of the Punjab act? He speaks against ‘absentee landlords’ but does not want the government to follow the Russian model but to prove that the American model is far better where big investors work on land. Actually, Zamindari Abolition was linked to make Rajput land owners feel guilty but at the same time it was never advocated and acted in Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh.

Karpoori Thakur promoted Lohia’s anti-English sentiments. Do we want our children to not study the English language? Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have paid a price for English not being promoted. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Karpoori Thakur all were the followers of Charan Singh who was against technology in the farm sector. Kisan should not use the tractor he has written emphatically. The farmers in Western Uttar Pradesh are among the most prosperous because they embraced technology.

Actually, this is the age of identity and not ideas. Market driven ideas assimilate the identity and promote their ideas through selling the identity of even those who have been diametrically opposed to it. Hence, it is not important what are the ideologies of individuals as well as their acts but their jaatis. So the farmers should now forget everything and feel good as Charan Singh and Swaminathan have got the Bharat Ratna, Telugus should feel great about Narsimharao getting the award. MBCs should not seek representation in jobs and see what has been done to them, but must feel happy that all their issues are resolved.

If someone asks me a question, I would say, give Bharat Ratna to Babu Jagdev Prasad Kushawah as he spoke for the land rights of the dalits and OBCs. If work for the people is concerned, why is the Award not given to Mr V P Singh and Mr Kanshiram. They deserve it better than anyone else but definitely they will also get one day when the ruling party feels that the awards can help them reap political benefits. At the moment, I don’t see it happening because the work of VP Singh as well as Kansiram jolted the ruling elites and they still fear and resent their impact.

Anyway, Bharat Ranta Mubarak to all the family members of the awardees. Now, they can safely ask questions to the Gandhi family and join the ruling party bandwagon for a ‘better’ ‘future.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The author is an activist and is currently working on Impact of Ganga and its tributaries in the Himalayas and the plains of India

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