WHY INDIA NEEDS RESERVATION IN PROMOTION

Misinterpretation by Judiciary and conscious silence of ‘Civil Society’

Equality is inherent pre-requisite for any civilization or nation to be humane, progressive or even stable. We in India have been lucky and unlucky to witness both aspects of society from ancient times. The advent of varn vyvastha or caste system have been one of the most inhuman, long and surprisingly supported by many sections of Indian society throughout centuries especially the medieval ages. Today after the establishment of Republic of India, the Constitutionalism and Rule of Law is the way through which all the outstanding disputes between society, state and power centers are to be resolved. Not only it is frustrating and painful, it is quiet slow because of all sorts of Machiavellian tricks, hurdles and connivance of various dominating sections in politics, academia, judiciary and all other economic, political and social power wielding procedures and centers. In order to tackle this in a democratic way, our founding fathers founded one of the most unique and complex constitution in order to establish Rule of Law in this nation which is not only capable of propelling the society forward in its evolution but also it does have the potential to transform and heal old historical and social wounds that various sections of societies have inflicted against each other.

Supreme_Court_of_India_-_Retouched.jpg
Supreme Court of India

          Strengthening Rule of Law through Constitutionalism is order of the day. This is fundamentally essential in order to not only address social and other evils in India but also in order to uproot them completely. This struggle towards social justice through constitutional means in politics, in society, in academia and all other aspects is AMBEDKARISM in practice and we while identifying serious hurdles in the path of social justice and empowerment of oppressed believe that the path shown by founding fathers of this nation i.e. Dr. Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi etc along with other practitioners of politics and law like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther and Nelson Mandela is the best path to follow.

dr-ambedkar

Infact we, as ESYA, do have wide political and practical experience of the methods employed by other radical ideologies which are usually based on either some creed, race, religion or perhaps some political ideology (Stalinism/Maoism) which do prefer or perpetrate violence as the only tool against injustice. On the other hand not refuting completely the role of armed struggles in history we must understand that neither we are living in history nor this is some African dictatorship or Middle east theocratic State, we are Secular, Democratic, Socialist Republic of India and being that our responsibility to make it a successful democracy based on justice social and economic becomes much more important. The constitutional legal frameworks prepared by Dr. BR. Ambedkar, especially his vehement emphasis on the rights of oppressed and social justice has given Indian constitution a position much above esoterically and even in matters of constitutional jurisprudence much above the constitutions of Western Democracies whereby, their still awkward and backward attitude towards their own oppressed especially, the tribal people, the blacks, aboriginals etc. is quiet conspicuous. But on the other hand we would like to argue the superior potential of Indian constitution is expressed through its application in Article 16 and all the matters relating to reservation. Where, the spirit and intention of this particular article is derived from Ambedkar’s own philosophy that power sharing among all the sections of society is necessary in order to uplift the oppressed. Hence, the struggle and evolution of Article 16 commences in Indian political and legal scene, causing many dominating sections to often react violently and using all their tricks in order to do away with this provision. But various judgments of Supreme Court of India have infact strengthened this provision and also have highlighted the need of this provision to remain for long time and also to extend in certain more sectors.

Therefore, accepting Constitutionalism as basic tool and procedure of struggle we would like to discuss in details and point out the facts that have recently surfaced regarding the relevance, importance and extension of reservation especially reservation in promotion in government services. Even though it is clear that power sharing in all the power centers is essential in uplifting the oppressed, especially dalits of India, still somehow in academic circles and even among judiciary there is confusion and an uneasy reluctance to apply this principle fearlessly. We shall discuss the evolution of the concept of reservation in promotion and recent debates around it while supporting all the efforts, be it judicial or political in order to manifest the law regarding reservation in promotion and passage of 117th Amendment Bill.

On the last day of Indian parliament’s winter session in the year of 2012 due to ruckus created by member parliaments of BJP there was no meaningful discussion or debate on the issue of Reservation in Promotion which was introduced as 117th Amendment Bill. It is true that inadequacy of representation in higher echelons of administration has been quiet a fact yet no action has been taken. As per Article 16(4) of Constitution, reservations in direct recruitment and in promotions were admissible to SCs/STs in Centre/State government services in promotion to their population till 15/11/1992. On 16/11/1992 in the celebrated case of Indra Sawhney, a 9 judges bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court decided that Article 16(4) of Constitution did not provide for reservation in promotions to SCs/STs but ordered that since reservation in promotion were admissible to SCs/STs through various executive orders since 1954 , the same be continued for another period of 5 years only. This buffer period was provided to the executive to enable them to take appropriate measures to implement the Indra Sawhney order. In order to remove this anomaly, the parliament, through 77th amendment of the constitution, added a new clause 4(A) in Article 16 i.e. 16(4-A) and that the promotions must be given to the members of SC/ST from the back date of 17/06/1995.

BUT even after the parliament providing for reservation in promotion through the above mentioned amendment(77th ) with the aim of filling the gap in  the higher grade posts of Government Services because of the INADEQUATE REPRESETATION of SCs/STs; still the implementation of it went through considerable delay when Supreme Court itself introduced ‘CATCH UP PRINCIPLE’ and unfortunately gave its own definition of promotion by removing consequential seniority from it which prima facie goes against the principles of service jurisprudence and most importantly it devoid the 77th Amendment Bill from intended empowerment and giving administrative power  to historically deprived section i.e. SCs and STs.

  1. CATCH UP PRINCIPLE – On 10/10/1995 in the case of Virpal Singh Chauhan Supreme Court made a blunder. It introduced something called ‘catch up principle’ which means, that once a SC/ST candidate is given accelerated promotion (R.K. Sabharwal) in any government service he or she will not be able to maintain his/her Seniority on such promotions. That here it is evident that whole idea of giving accelerated promotion or of 77th Amendment is Empowerment of the deprived section through promoting them in higher echelons but what kind of empowerment is done when promotion is given without seniority ? It was gross violation of principle of equality, service jurisprudence and an act inconsistent with spirit of Indian constitution’s basic structure. Similarly same principle was upheld by Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Ajit Janjua that if catch up principle is not applied then principle of equality is violated. Because of this principle hundreds of members of the SC/ST community were not given consequential seniority and were deprived from being adequately represented in higher echelons of administration.
  2. 85th and 117th AMENDMENT:- Hence in order to remove this inconsistency, to dilute and repeal the catch up principle parliament of India again amended the constitution of India where the term consequential seniority was introduced in Article 16(4)A. In the Object and Reasons of the 85th Amendment parliament of India agreed and accepted that “ The judgements of Supreme Court in the case of Union of India Vs Virpal Singh Chauhan and Ajit Singh Janjhua Vs State of Punjab, which lead to the issuance of OM dated 30/01/1997, have adversely affected the interest of Government Servants belonging to Schedule castes and Schedule Tribes category in the matter of seniority on promotion to the next higher grade.” Hence parliament made sure that along with promotions consequential seniority is also given and catch up principle is repealed. The following is the data published by National Commission for Schedule Castes in its Seventh Report showing the percentage of the inadequacy of SCs/STs in Higher Posts of Administration-
Group Total SC Percentage  ST Percentage
A 98066 10998 11.21 3382 3.45
B 144145 17915 12.43 5020 3.48
C 2377895 386142 16.24 154314 6.49
D (excluding Sweepers) 956947 167947 17.55 64865 6.78
Sweepers 132102 79850 60.45 6456 4.89
Total (Excluding Sweepers) 3577053 583002 16.30 227581 6.36

 

 

 

  1. NAGRAJ & OTHERS VS UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS:-

To the much heartburning of right wing minded population in the country the repealing of the catch up principle was a hammer blow of parliament on the supremacy of the privileged on the higher echelons of the administration. Hence they challenged all the related amendments of the constitution. The constitutionality of 77th, 81st,  82nd  and 85th Amendments were challenged in the above mentioned case where the petitioners contended that consequential seniority cannot be given to the members of SCs and STs once the accelerated promotion is granted. Even after upholding the constitutional validity of all the amendments Hon’ble Court was of the point of view –“ Para 123:- However, in this case, as stated above, the main issue concerns the extent of reservation. In this regard the State concerned will have to show in each case the existence of compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation and over all administrative efficiency before making provision for reservation. As stated above, the impugned provision is an enabling provision. The state is not bound to make reservation for SCs/STs in matter of promotion however if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the state has to collect quantifiable date showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment  in addition to compliance with article 335.

          Hence, the idea of quantifiable data, of every state proving the inadequacy of SCs/STs and backwardness is absurd, weird, bizarre as well as shockingly inconsistent with the spirit of the Amendments -77th, 81st, 82nd and 85th. . In opposition to this whole idea Parliament had introduced 85th Amendment and later on 117th Amendment as well.

  1. There is infact no need to collect data to show the inadequacy of representation of the communities in question especially when it is already established in Indra Sawhney’s case that it is not any empirical data which will show the backwardness but historical and sociological factors which are the reasons of backwardness of SCs/STs. This means that Judiciary must work in harmony with the social reality and political will of the people of India as is mentioned in the Objects and Reasons of the 85th and 117th Amendment Bill. The judgment of M.Nagraj in this respect is in contradiction with three major factors regarding the so called SCs/STs which has to be take into account are – 1. Backwardness 2. Inadequacy of representation 3.Administrative efficiency

Here we shall discuss these factors briefly to establish that no state is required to give some quantifiable data to prove the following –

  1. Backwardness of the SCs/STs for the purposes of reservation in promotion :-

There are large number of judicial findings to show that the backwardness of SCs/STs is not measured in individual cases but as a block or the community as a whole. A constitution bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court in E.V. chinnaiah Vs State of Andhra Pradesh and Others  in para 93 observed :-

 “ Schedule Castes; however is not a caste in terms of its definition as contained in Article 366(24) of the constitution. They are brought within the purview of the said category by reason of their abysmal backwardness. Schedule Castes consists of not only the people who belongs to some backward caste but also race or tribe or part of groups within castes, races or tribes.”

The judgment of Apex Court in M. Nagraj’s case asking for a basis for backwardness does not match with the provisions of Constitutions. As far as SCs and STs are concerned, it is clear that in terms of Article 341 and 342 of the constitution, ‘backwardness’ relates to castes and not persons but in the M. Nagraj case the Supreme Court has tried to define backwardness in relation to person/government servant, whereas in Indira Sawhney’s case the Apex Court in para 779 specifically observed that :-

Lowlier the occupation lowlier the social standing of the class in the graded hierarchy. In rural India occupation and caste nexus is true even today. A few members may have gone to cities and even abroad but when they return they barring a few exception go into the same fold again. It does  not matter if he has earned money. He may not follow a particular occupation but still the label remains. His identity is not changed for the purpose of marriage, death and all other social function. It is his social class that is still relevant.”

Further in para 788 in Indira Sawhney Vs Union of India Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy observed that :-

The Schedule Tribes and Schedule castes are without a doubt backward for the purpose of clause ; no one has suggested that they should satisfy the test of social and educational backwardness.”

          Again in para 796-797 it is observed that :-

It is not correct to say that the backward class contemplated by Article 16(4) is limited to the socially and educationally backward classes refered to in Article 15(4) and Article 340, it is much wider. The test of requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to SCs/STs, which indubitably falls within the expression ‘backward class citizens’.”

It is also very relevant to take note that Indira Sawheney case was decided by 9 judges Bench whereas M. Nagraj case was decided by 5 Judges bench only and, therefore, the decision in M. Nagraj case cannot supersede the decision taken in Indra Sawhney’s case. The decision was given as it was given in ignorance of earlier decisions taken by the larger bench which dealt with Indira Sawhney’s case. Therefore Indra Sawhney case is valid law of land which does not permit any further justification of backwardness of SCs and STs.

2. Inadequacy of Representation:- The idea of promotion in reservation stems from the idea of empowering a historically trampled community, it is more of an ideological application of the principle “ Unequals cannot be treated equally” an affirmative action in the purview of Article 16(4). And Article 16(4) clearly states that in the services of state, SCs are to be provided an opportunity where they are not adequately represented. Constitution commands the sate to make reservation for SCs. So far as education is concerned, reservation is provided to the members of SC/ST/OBC under the central educational institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act 2006 laying down 15% reservation for SCs, the same yardstick is applicable for the SCs in services under Article 16(4). Therefore, if the state makes reservation in the services as well as in promotions subsequently upto 15% by specifically mentioning in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of 77th Amendment Act that members of SCs and STs in opinion of the Government are NOT adequately represented it is wrong interpretation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court whereby by giving its erroneous decisions in Ajit Janjhua and M. Nagraj it has not only muddled in the findings of Mandal Commission which was upheld further by Indra Sawhney’s Judgement, it has violated the cardinal principles of constitutional jurisprudence and intention of founding fathers, spirit of Article 16(4) as well as opinion of the State.

Further, it is not out of place to mention here that 15% reservation has been provided for the SCs in the services since the advent of the constitution in 1950 through various executive instructions issued by the Government of India and by the different States, but still the minimum prescribed percentage of reservation even in the direct recruitment has not been achieved. If adequate representation in direct recruitment i.e. 15% have not been achieved after 7 decades of independence then how can there be over representation of SCs and STs if reservation in promotion is even allowed ! There are always back logs and vacancies meant for SCs which remain vacant.

Moreover, above the data has been produced which says and proves the inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs. ( For more study of the detailed empirical data regarding the inadequacy of representation please visit website of National Commission of Schedule Castes). Hence, it is absolutely clear that the representation of SCs and STs in states, central government services, UTs have not even reached the minimum required level. Keeping in the view the inadequacy of the representation in direct recruitment constitutional provision for reservation in promotion is a must.

3. Efficiency in Administration:- While considering the validity of constitutional (77th , 81st, 82nd and 85th ) Amendments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M.Nagraj Vs Union of India upheld constitutionality of the provision which was inserted by the aforementioned amendments, but impose certain conditions before the benefit is passed on to eligible members of SCs. It was made mandatory for the state to justify promotion in each case. This is a strange philosophy in which one has to give justification for the exercise of one’s fundamental rights.

V.T. Rajshekhar in his book “Merit my Foot”(A reply to Anti Reservation racists), 1996 published by Dalit Sahitya Academy, Bangalore has stated –“ Nowhere in the world ‘merit and efficiency’ are given so much importance as in India, which is now pushed to the 120th position virtually the last among different countries in the world.”

On the same point and while Ridiculing the right wing slogan of ‘efficiency’ Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, in K.C. Vasanth Kumar VS State of Karnataka observes :-

Efficiency is very much on the lips of the privileged whenever reservation is mentioned. Efficiency it seems will be impaired if the total reservation exceeds 50%; efficiency, it seems, will suffer if the, ‘carry forward rule’ is adopted; efficiency it seems will be injured if the rule of reservation is extended to promotional posts, From the protests against reservation exceeding 50% or extending to the promotional posts or against the carry forward rule, one would think that civil service is a heavenly paradise into which only archangels, the chosen elite, the very best may enter and may be allowed to go higher up the ladder. But the truth is otherwise. The truth is that the Civil Services is not paradise and the upper echelons belonging to the chosen classes are not necessarily models of efficiency. The underlining assumption that those belonging to the upper casts and classes , who are appointed to the non reserved posts will, because of their pre-assumed merit, ‘naturally’ perform better than those who have been appointed to the reserve posts that the clear stream of efficiency will be polluted by the infiltration of the latter into the sacred precincts is a vicious assumption, typical of superior approach of the elitists classes.”

This ridiculing of that casteist mentality that consciously and unconsciously revolves in the collective consciousness of the people in India is apt and accurate. This phobia that reservation will somehow reduce the efficiency of the administration in itself is deliberately made and built up by certain sections of society for their ulterior motives or because of their undemocratic attitude. Hence further Justice Reddy writes –

“ ..Why not ask ourselves after 35 years of independence the position of SCs, etc has not greatly improved ? Is it not a legitimate question to ask whether things might have been different, had the district Administrators and the State and Central Bureaucrats drawing larger numbers from these classes? Courts are not equipped to answer these questions, but the courts may not interfere with the honest endeavours of the government to find the answer and solution.”

Hence, this is how the argument of M.Nagraj’s self made idea of collecting a ‘quantifiable data’ and Ajit Singh Janjua’s removing of consequential seniority from the concept of promotion in order to deny reservation in promotion fails miserably in view of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s earlier findings again and again. Moreover, how evident it is to observe that this attitude/notion that persons appointed or promoted through reservation will not be efficient, this in itself is a sophisticated form of castesim as well as the main reason and factor of maintaining the backwardness of the concerned communities in question. And in order to fight this notion reservation is given under Article 16(4) !

Need to consider change in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of 117th Amendment Bill :-

          We, in brief have tried to highlight the major aberrations and blunders in various interpretations made by Hon’ble Supreme Court. We are of the humble point of view that the efforts made by Parliament sooner or later are bound to be victorious. Yet, as we have expressed that there is already enough empirical proof regarding the inadequacy of the representation of SCs and STs in the Government services, moreover, conceptually and in accordance with the principles of Indian constitutional jurisprudence the demand of proof regarding the backwardness of already trampled and exploited community for hundreds of years is not justified. Hence, we are of opinion that changes must be made in the third paragraph of the Statement of Objects and Reasons of 117th Amendment Bill which is reproduced here as under:-

It has been observed that there is difficulty in collection of quantifiable date, showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment. Moreover, here is uncertainty on the methodology of this exercise.”

          According to this paragraph mentioned in the bill the reason for not producing the empirical data is been mentioned as some practical problem and infact the real question at hand, the real philosophy and inherent mistake of the idea of proving the backwardness of SCs and STs is no dealt properly. Rather it seems it is been swept under carpet. We, on the other hand would like to deal the bull by its horns and the fact that the whole idea of proving the backwardness of the SC and ST community and proving its inadequacy is wrong interpretation of ‘equality before law’ (Article-14), it is individual specific, this is interpretation more in the light of Lockean individual equality than Indian version of equality which is only to be interpreted under the light of socialist character of our preamble.

Hence, we would propose that instead of shying away from the problem of collecting the quantifiable data it must be mentioned boldly that where class is backward as accepted again and again by Hon’ble Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney, individuals cannot be treated separately from that class in case of SCs and STs.

CONCLUSION:-

          It is quiet conspicuous and clear that struggle against all that is unconstitutional, undemocratic and non-progressive is duty of every enlightened citizen of India. The struggle of founding fathers and framers of Constitution in favour of the oppressed, deprived and destitute is self evident. Hence, it becomes imperative for us as students, as youth and as fellow citizens to sharpen the struggle inside and outside the parliament of India in favour of the passage of 117th Amendment Bill.

          We, Eklavya Sudents and Youth Association have made a humble effort and have tried to form an argument trying to cover the major principles of constitutional jurisprudence, interpretation of  our founding fathers and have tried to highlight the anomalies and aberrations in the judgments of Ajit Janjua, Virpal Singh Chauhan and eventually M. Nagraj which have adversely affected the interest of members of SC and ST communities.

          Therefore, we would like to present a powerful argument before the people of India in order to expose the conscious silence maintained by so called ‘progressive’ academicians, ‘secular’ media houses and especially the so called ‘liberal’ left. The fact that all these hegemonic sections of Indian society having deep roots in legislation, in judiciary and executive, they always brush aside these matters derailing the process of empowerment of the dalits of India affectively. We appeal to all sensitive and real progressive sections of India to favour and support the passage of 117th Amendment Bill while giving deep consideration on the changes in the language of 117th Amendment Bill so that it does not run again into some legal challenge as to its constitutionality, which has been done by various dominating sections from past 25 years. And we as ESYA also appeal to all the political parties of this nation to act unanimously and speedily in order pass this Bill.

-Advocate Sawinder Singh
Chairman ESYA

           

Citation & Credits:-

National Commission of SCs/STs

Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India

M.Nagraj Vs Union of India

117th Amendment Bill

 

JNU: Ambedkar Vs Left; but opposite in Panjab University, Why?

BAPSA (Birsa-Ambedkar-Phule Student Association) challenging the Left Unity in JNU

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JNU, the land of ideological battles, is well-known place for intellectual potential and dominance of Stalinist left. With the rise of right wing forces after Modi became P.M. in 2014, from Rohith Vemula to Una incident dalits are being attacked ruthlessly. Consequently, dalits who were cunningly communalized by RSS during Lok Sabha election are now coming out of Hindutva fold. After the march of cultural Hindutva of right wing conservative, the left politics which claims to be pro-dalits in its popular rhetoric of Bolshevik revolution, obviously has found some space in political discourse. Though, the JNU’s campus culture and its students’ verdict is not always the real reflection of society but the recent sedition row and overwhelming attempts of Modi government to haunt left hegemony have  pulled the attention of whole nation to link up with JNU. Interestingly, in present scenario, dalits are being lured by all political groups evidently under the banner of ‘annihilation of caste’. Even P.M. Modi warned his party to convince dalits and said that Nationalists are with us, let’s reach out to Dalits, backwards.

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Courtesy  Kractivism

Kractivism -Bridge the Gap Bring the Change

JNU campus has been a hub of Stalinist left and Marxist bastions since its foundation. AISA, a student wing of CPI (ML) Liberation had been winning mandate in student elections for many years. In 2015, Kanhiya, a leader of AISF (the student wing of CPI) fought against AISA and became president of JNUSU. And for now, the JNU bears very different kind of contest where the right wing ABVP has been completely swept away and BAPSA(Birsa-Ambedkar-Phule Student Association) came as strong contender against Left Unity (AISA-SFI). BAPSA, which started just two years ago, chased the Left Unity and lost with a small margin of 409 votes.  Aftermath, the political thinkers are forced to interpret the political contours of newly emerged scenario in JNU. Clearly, the mandate of JNU student election is a synthesis of national political environment and inherent Ambedkar-Marxian contradictions. The nature of right and left politics is complementary, unconstitutional and absolutely hegemonic. Right wing relies on cultural hegemony while spreading false version of history or endorsing hegemonic phase of Manu-Samriti and similarly Left considers its philosophy ultimate champion of all oppressed sections asserting its ‘intellectual’ hegemony while imposing economic interpretation of history.

B.R. Ambedkar, the icon of constitutional democracy, had always motivated downtrodden and socially oppressed people for education, saying knowledge as one of major premises in power sharing. In 1970s, the Naxalite movement under the slogan ‘land to tiller’ and big ill-literacy in dalits (landless) brought them in leftist outfits. Moreover, dalit intellectuals also became dependent on leftist ideology while being far away from Ambedkar’s constitutionalism. Later on, the Bahujanvad of Kanshiram and Janata Politics gave a new independent voice to dalits, minorities and backward classes of India strengthening constitutional democracy. The JNU’s mandate reflects that dalits who are the product Ambedkar’s reservation policy, now following his slogan of  Educate, Agitate, Organize are struggling for independent platform rejecting Left politics, understanding the real difference between the Ambedkarism and Leftism as suggested by Ambedkar :

my party would not align with Communist Party for the plain reason that I do not believe in Communism”.

Instead, the mandate of student election in Panajb University, Chandigarh is surprisingly different. Students preferred ‘non-political’ group PUSU over mainstream parties like NSUI,SOI,ABVP etc. Secondly, the election mandate also brings Marx-Ambedkar ties in question. The extreme left outfit, Students for Society (SFS) got 2494 votes with small margin of 11 votes from second contender SOI and scored third position. Ironically, the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) again lacked in representing dalits independently and overtly supported SFS. When will dalits, OBC and all the anti-casteism students of Panajb University understand that there cannot be ideological unity between Ambedkar and Marx?

                -Eklavya Editorial Committee

 

Punjab Election 2017: Congress, SAD-BJP or AAP

Analyzing current political situation in Punjab

– by Vikramjeet Vick

Today, Punjab is boiling hot in the electoral vessel held up in a tripod of uneven and unfriendly legs- Captain, Badal and Kejriwal. Many ‘private surveys’ and ‘exit polls’ are being coined in the public and many glamorous slogans are being shouted loudly on the social media. The parties whom these surveys favour quickly endorse them and others reject it. Previously, in 2012, PPP made a triangular tussle in Punjab, consequently, Parkash Singh Badal managed to win inspite of a big anti-incumbency. Now, Aam Admi Party has created paranoia among anti-Badal voters lest the Raj Krange Pachi Saal the slogan of Badal should become true. On the other hand, Captain Amarinder Singh took charge in his hands and has started many campaigns to interact with people while putting his political career on stake. Politics, a necessary evil, cannot be first but least choice of common people to discuss or think upon, because the poor, dalits, farmers, petty shopkeepers, youth and downtrodden have not get anything that had been promised to them in elections. Especially, the un-employed youth, declining peasantry and landless dalits have been living in a complete despair.  Many times, their anguish spilled over the roads in the forms dharnas or demonstrations but the government, behaving like bare-knuckle brawler, always bashed the people mercilessly.

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In this chaotic politico-economic scenario, it will be pre-mature to comment whether this party will make government or the other in 2017. But, it is must to understand how the people of Punjab are receiving the issues, agendas, ideologies and slogans to make their minds and opinions. This article is not any opinion in the favour or against any political party rather it tries to be an unbiased comprehensive assimilation of various grounds, factors and issues which are shaking up the public opinion in Punjab.

A glimpse on history of Punjab:  After the reorganization of Punjab with division of Maha Punjab in 1967, the changed demographic equations fulfilled the very ‘objective’ of Punjabi Suba movement. Consequently, the Punjab has always remained in the hands of Sikh Chief-Ministers rather Jat Sikh Chief Ministers. Though, Punjab faced a great many president rules but whenever any government came, whether be it collation government or other, it was dominated with rural Jat-Sikh community. In 1972, after winning unambiguous majority, this was the Congress party in which Giani Zail Singh was elected Chief Minister. He was the only C.M. belonging to backward class who later on served as first Sikh president of India, in the same era when Golden temple had been attacked.

Initially, the Akali Dal emerged to ‘safeguard’ the Sikh religion and its interests. There were many factions in Akali fold, right from its beginning. Unfortunately, the partition of India took place on communal ground that made the minorities more insecure or conscious about their identities. Therefore, it triggered a struggle for power in Sikhs to bargain with center for more regional and communal interests which later on reflected in sharp political conflict, finally it resulted into radicalization of Sikhs during 1980 to 1990.  Some projects brought the water-sharing conflicts between Haryana and Punjab. The rising popularity of Indira Gandhi after a winning Indo-Pak war in 1971, swept the whole opposition by getting stupendous majority at center and the same was followed in Punjab in 1972.With the unrest of not getting stable government (1967 to 1971), president rules and having alienated from power (1972 to 1977), the peasantry and Sikhs (especially Jats) could not get satisfied. And also the status of Chandigarh, water-sharing issues and the demand of inclusion of some Punjabi speaking areas of Haryana back to Punjab were disputed.

Now, the fertile ground and grievances against the center had ripened to bring the state-center relation in open discussion followed by three Anandpur Sahib Resolutions. Today, the politics over these issues still prevail in Punjab, though no one knows what the fate of these demands would be. Some dhram yudh morchas were held and every time, Akali factionalism became more evident. Sikh nationalism got strengthened in some folds of Akalis, contrarily, the Akali group under the leadership of Mr.Parkash Singh Badal tried to adapt into reality and hence survived politically resulting into a little democratization of his faction. After having invited by Rajiv Gandhi, the Capt. Amarinder Singh joined the congress party in 1980 and resigned the party in 1984 as a protest against Congress when it had launched an attack on Golden Temple. After, working as one of stalwart leaders in Akali Dal, he broke away from Akalis in 1992 and finally remerged with congress in 1998. Simultaneously, Mr.Parkash Singh Badal diluted the Sikh Nationalism since he realized Akali could never make government alone, which is why he tied up with RSS/Bharti Jan Sangh upholding Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat on Moga declaration (1995). This changed stance led to make the first government of Akali Dal in 1997 which completed the five years office tenure. Subsequently, Punjab witnessed peace and stability, though the right wing patterns had existed harming the standard of social justice.

Being stick to present scenario, it is unaffordable to write in details about the all major conflicting players of Punjab polity that significantly reflect the Punjabi psyche. These  well known players are Leftism, Naxalism, Bhaujanwaad , Deras-Sikh conflicts, Dalit-Jatt conflicts  etc.

This is the same Punjab which accepted the two extreme opposite religious ideologies the Panthak and the Sangh which are still ruling the State. Paradoxically, this is the only Punjab which embraced two diametrically opposite militant movements- Naxalite and Khalistani movements in the same time period. One of which was based on religious sentiments and other had nothing to do with religion. In fact, both movements were originated from agrarian crisis that had begun with green revolution and more or less an outcome of identity crisis. It shows that how the Punjabis are enthusiastic and hyper-reflexive towards any new rhetoric of emotional extreme. Interestingly, they also throw out the same extremism very soon when/if they feel cheated, deceived or betrayed. Hence, it was only Punjab which resonated with the highly idealistic and high-flown narrative of Arvind Kejriwal to whom entire country had rejected in Lok Sabha election, 2014.

The above said story is just brief attempt to pinpoint the historical moments which are gone deep into collective memories of Punjabis, consciously or unconsciously affecting the political decisions of individuals. Let’s think of opinions critically to make a new one. Therefore, let your mind lapse into major points discussed below in a pragmatic manner.

Political ExperienceMr. Parkash Singh Badal is a stalwart Sikh leader who has abundant experience in panthik politics. He is the only leader in Akali fold who not only survived but also championed the Sikh mass support from rural to urban centers. He smartly chose and left the social classes or groups suiting his electoral gain in ever changing socio-economic dynamic of society. Also he is allegedly responsible in curbing the business and choking the economic growth of Punjab. Actually, it is said that for now he is a lesser a chief-minister but more a businessman who just believe in managing or arranging the voters. On the one side, he is supposed to make peace in the state, but on the other hand, he is also alleged to make communal-caste tensions / polarization when he fears to be out of power or when he is out of power. He has a huge experience of aggressive politics to administrative politics. He has been in resistance politics and also in parliamentary politics for many years thus having a good hold on Punjabi-Sikh psyche. Though, Mr. Parkash Singh Badal remains contentious among other Akali factions, yet one credit goes to him is that he has started the democratic process in Sikhs, cleverly derailing the militants.

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Captain Amarinder Singh with a unique political journey, from Maharaja to Captain to Chief Minister is full of adventure, patriotism having different kind of attachment with Punjab. He was the only, democratic Sikh leader in Akalis who challenged Mr. Parkash Badal in internal and external political affairs. He is the only leader in the Punjab for whom the people often say that they are the big fans of him. Capt. Amarinder Singh is supposed as Paniyan da rakha in a large chunk of rural folk. He is equally popular in all sub-regions of Punjab- Majha, Malwa and Doaba. Further extending the democratic process, the Captain crusaded and defeated his clever opponent Mr. Parkash Singh Badal in 2002 and became the Chief-Minister of Punjab. Infact, the opposition does not have something tangible against him to speak up in their campaigns except shouting Raja –Raja. Sometimes, it seems that Captain is not only a pure-politician but he possesses the qualities of  a  academic-intellectual and statesman attitude too. It will be unjust to forget the tenure of Captain’s regime. This was the Captain who had introduced/implemented properly merit system in recruitments, transparency in administration, provided adequate price to farmers for crop yields, attempted to raise the business in the state irrespective the resistance from within party and high command. It reminds the words of Mr. Bhagwant Mann that sakhatayi hogie while alerting scoundrel and corrupts in his comedy track Bhagwant Maan Full Speed.  Captain’s decisions are always stunning and surprising. He fought against Mr. Jaitley and thwarted him at the time when the entire Congress was out of order in whole country. Moreover, the Congress party has always been full of factionalism and elitism, beginning from the higher echelon to student groups, which many times hinders the grass root reality to reach sincere leadership who actually want to win elections.

AAP’s young politics of ‘changing the rules of politics’ and the anti-incumbency against both state & center governments helped it to enter into Punjab. Though, AAP is kind of a new born toddler in politics who harassed many overwhelming political leaders, yet as a an conspicuous expression of its overall political as well its leaders’ personal immaturity, it is evident that they always  become aggressive and furious whenever anyone questions AAP’s work style, agendas or party programme. Now days, Aam Aadmi Party which is a product of anti-corruption movement seems going for away from its ideology – transparency and Swaraj. AAP managed to win in Delhi because the local leadership was aware of multi-cultural nature of metropolitan city. But, Punjabi society is qualitatively different and integrated having different political culture. C.M. Arvind Kejriwal, being in Delhi and because of media sensationalism he always remains in news headlines, but rift between Kejriwal and Modi questions the administration of Kejriwal in public perception. So, in case of Punjab, AAP is completely lacking political and administrative experience. Even, Mr. Bhagwant Maan, the only old leader left in AAP seems to be more talkative but less a statesman.

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Organizational Structure: After having been out of power for ten years, the Punjab Congress had lost the organizational hold within the party. Although, Congress had been in power at center, but it failed to organize the party structures, hence the laziness of higher leadership could not stop factionalism in Punjab. No doubt, Captain has revived many organizational outfits in last one year. But, the problem with Congress is that it is dominated with elite and higher class which constitutes advising and helping hands to Captain, unfortunately, does not understand the real objective picture at rural level, rather create a subjective wall around Captain Amrinder Singh to please him by false reporting. The political power resides in, not only the elected MLA’s but also in the persons having a strong position in party structure and organs. Though, there may be two or three SC/BC members in Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, but why the Congress is so shy to float its Dalit and OBC wings, on contrary, Captain himself makes Jat Maha Sabha. What kind of politics this is! But, Capt. Amarinder Singh is welcoming all petty-parties and groups like BSP, Communists etc to build wider front against Akalis & AAP, it shows his political maturity which may help him to succeed. He has already merged PPP in congress party reflecting the formation of Great alliance learning and trying to imitate the greatly successful experiment of Nitish-Lalu alliance in Bihar.

On the other side, Mr. Sukhbir Badal  is good at managing and organizing rural folk, youth and agricultural class by connecting their psyche to his party, by assigning them certain roles in various party organs. His Machiavellian-cunning approach of giving upper hand to the leaders of party and its affiliated organs, over the party MLAs is one of the unique instruments to empower the party structures. These are the alternate organs of Akali party which are operated for what the people say Akali are accessible whether they do work or not. It is only Akali Party who has brought SC/OBC fronts in Punjab that associates to various ‘lower caste’ communities. It does not mean that Akali Dal is empowering the ‘lower caste’ or fighting for caste annihilation but the political engagements are the first premise towards democratization of society especially in representative democracy. At present, while having power in hand, Akali Dal is peculiarly vigil to manage the voters. Ironically, after two consecutive plans, Akali Dal is still in race of making government. Obviously, the situation would be clear, if AAP were not there. AAP, being a new and immature is not well organized, rather seems to be self-destructive. After becoming Chief-minister, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal had become autocratic and started killing the dissent within the party. He expelled Mr.Yoginder Yadav and Parshant Bhushan-the co-founder of AAP party, by highly centralizing the party structure. It is pertinent to mention that Kejriwal, the super protagonist of Swaraj is alleged for killing internal democracy.

On the same pattern, He has also sidelined two winning MPs, Dhramvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa. The first convener of AAP, Punjab unit, Mr. Sumel Sidhu had to leave the party, just after victory of four MPs in 2014 and now the second convener Mr. Chhotepur is being expelled.  All the parties have the same stories but the party which had come to power in Delhi in the name of Swaraj (decentralization of power) should not have killed internal dissent and its own ideological principle. AAP has been relying on big rallies and gathering big crowd at staged programme since from beginning. But, scarcely, it has succeeded to create homogeneous and organic party structure. Mr.Chhotepur, having a background of Akali and Congress, has traditional experience of making and holding party organizations and institutions. That’s why he managed many things in the party, especially focusing on his own position in party. Because of inbuilt split in the party, AAP is suffering with severe group-ism, and this is only party which does not have a firm party constitution. Moreover, the central leadership Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak are not politically experienced and have failed to understand Punjabi-Sikh and rural psyche, and they are not able to control group-ism rather they are also blamed for enhancing it.

A strict Party Constitution is only method to refine and minimize opportunism in any party justifying the concept of Aam Aadmi. AAP has altered the concept of common man (Aam Aadmi). Who is Aam Aadmi in AAP? If AAP accepts any person irrespective of his class then what is merit to be called Aam Aadmi? In nutshell, the Aam Aadmi Party has a dynamic crowd and volunteers creating hype in the form of wave but not proper party structure that are most important to transform crowd into voters.

Wave: Often, the people talk of wave, a political wave. In Punjab, you can see many people saying whose wave is going on. What does the term wave mean? What kind of wave is going on in Punjab? Firstly, the people are confused between the electoral wave and the wave created by people’s movement. For example, when Anna and company were fighting for Lok Pal bill to combat corruption in country, then there was a wave, anti-corruption wave. But, when the splinter group under Kejriwal made a political party, though to manifest the same, yet political party is not connected with only one agenda, rather it focuses on electoral gains which involves many other aspects, hence, the core idea never gets manifested, rather makes the party politically corrupt on some issues. So, it is relevant to discuss electoral wave. Obviously, this wave is created by Party itself, its leaders and intellectuals while talking through one’s hat, the private T.V. media, print media, social media and most importantly the local youth. And it is not easy to gauge precisely this electoral wave as different classes of people are connected with different sources. For example, in case of Delhi’s election, no survey or exit poll could predict this so called wave of AAP, even Mr. Kejriwal himself got stunned by the final result. Similarly, in the recent Bihar assembly election, all survey agencies, T.V houses and electronic media predicted Modi Wave at the top but the same wave was smashed by under-cover Nitish-Lalu wave– the counter wave. Therefore, now the people of Punjab are aware of these so called waves based on fake surveys, privately owned media and the parties themselves.

Hot issues and Campaign mode: In Punjab, the issues and agendas which are being preached are the same as were in Lok Sabha Election, 2014. Akali Dal is held responsible to promote synthetic drugs and liquor, farmer suicides, unemployment, Bus-business mafia, nepotism, corruption in jobs, mis–use of scholarship fund meant for dalits and mis-governance, thus, creating high level anti-incumbency in the state. Interestingly, the same anguish was there in 2014, even then, Akali Dal  along with BJP succeeded in grabbing 35 percent vote share claiming 6 seats out of 13. SYL-water sharing conflict is also a key. Badal and Captain seems more vocal and firm in SYL issue, but AAP is very reluctant and confused on this matter. In the light of these agendas, both Congress and AAP are scuffling bravely against Akali Dal.

But, the campaign of AAP led by comedian turned politician, the outspoken orator Mr. Bhagwant Maan seems very aggressive, emotionally influencing (like the Communist groups) but devoid of constructive programme to handle the evils he only offers sarcasm in his speeches. Though, he connects to people easily because of his Malwai metaphor, but it is not going to work in Majha and Doab regions. Ironically, it seems that Bhagwant Maan is AAP and AAP is Bhagwant Maan. At the same time, the Captain’s campaigns appear very sincere, focused, decentralized and very constructive. The campaigns entitled Coffee with CaptainHalke vich Captain by Captain are inclusive, bilateral and different. Instead, AAP wishes to create a psychological wave in the people and regularly engage its workers in projecting each rally a mega show, so that the people and its worker cannot even think of anything else. This populism with the metaphor of accusing the parties “two peas in pod” sometime works well in getting power, but it can not necessarily deliver better future. See, what the wonders Mr Modi has delivered to the people of India!  It reminds words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar that “…Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” Also Mr. Paraskh Badal is working in traditional way of Sangat Darshan to woo the panthik  vote. But, Sukhbir Badal is more successfully reconstructing the youth outfits and rural folk. Also SAD-BJP alliance probably will be intact. Moreover, BJP used be a party with a highest strike rate in urban centers may decline in this coming election. Akali Dal is trying to emphasize on infrastructural development including roads, flyovers and bridges in their campaigns.

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Congress used to be divided house, but now it does not appear so. Recently at rakhad puniya rally, both Captain and Bajwa came to rally in one car, sat together and dined together to shatter the public perception. It is not any small development for Majha politics. Rajinder Kaur Bhatthal is working with Manpreet Badal in manifesto committee. Raja Warring, a popular orator, is campaigning in Majha and Partap Bajwa has been given responsibility of organizing farmers. A big credit must be given to Parshant Kishore (who has worked hard in making Nitish Kumar C.M. of Bihar) for his idea of decentralized campaigning.

It is unfortunate that Janata Dal (United) is absent in present arena. Janata Party had a great history in Punjab politics which, along with Akali Dal, made a first surplus majority government in Punjab, while leading anti-Indira front at national level in 1977. Today, if one observes current national scenario of untamed negative nationalism and shameful harassment of intellectuals, oppressed and minorities, then it becomes clear that in absence of strong INC at National level only JD(U) under Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav is leading a real political as well as ideological opposition against BJP, RSS and communal forces while organizing federal and secular forces. In General election, 2019, whether Nitish Kumar emerges a successful Prime Ministerial candidate or not, Janata Dal (United) & liberal intellectuals will be the real opposition against Anti-dalit and anti-minorties forces.

Reservation Policy, Dalits and Parties:  Punjab has witnessed many social boycotts of dalits and caste based discrimination. After decline of BSP, the entire dalit vote got scattered. The Ravidasis, doaba voters slipped back to congress fold when BSP made alliance with Akali in 1996. Whereas dalit sikh vote got consolidated in Akali fold as Badal started to give more representations and tickets to them. Besides, Badal’s slogan of Punjabiyat suppressed the dalit identity and hence the debate for welfare of dalit has withered away from political scenario of Punjab. Any party irrespective of ideology is bound to have certain inflow of Jat votes because still theory of faction works very well in rural Punjab. In Punjab, the Jat voter infact need not to be much worried because of it being a strong social and economic section, it is more power oriented, and hence it will naturally divide in three parties. Hence, dalit-OBC vote (approximately 55 percent of total population) and urban Hindu vote will prominently decide the fate.

Although, the Akalis and Congress could not deliver the governance with social justice yet they have worked well in agreement with Constitution of India in matters of reservation policy. But, in case of AAP, it is very against the idea of reservation for SCs/STs/OBCs and they support economic base reservation. National Spokesperson of AAP, Dr.Kumar Vishwas, often condemns caste based reservation, instead upholds the economy based reservations which any mature student of national politics knows that constitutionally it is not possible to do away with Article 16. Mr.Kejrival and company never condemn his Machiavellian trick to deprive downtrodden and historically oppressed communities. AAP seems very against the idea of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar to uplift dalits and women. Ironically, the opposition also did not raise the voice against Kejriwal and Kumar Vishwas with an exception of Lalu Prasad Yadav, categorically mentioning this fact while he was MP in UPA-2 during Lok Sabha debate on Lokpal bill.

Morevoer, Hardip Singh Kingra, a part splinter group, former AAP activist, revealed that Mr. Durgesh Pathak argued that Reservation has ruined the country while debating on the issues of formation of SC/BC wings. That’s why, AAP seems to be a sophisticated version of RSS.

Mr. Bhagwant Maan either seems politically illiterate or over-smart while branding all the problems of Punjab as the problems of  only one community i.e. Jats- a landed class. He should have known that two-third dalits are landless labourers, petty-shopkeepers do not own lands, and wage labourers are have-nots. So, why he is doing so?  How disgusting! If he had been in accordance with anti-caste principle of Sikhism, he should have not quoted surname Maan, instead Singh, behind his name, not only he mentions caste which is prohibited among Sikhs but he also subtracts ‘Singh’ from the name and mentions only caste! It raises the question that even after being an outstanding rhetorician what is his identity? An Indian, a Sikh or merely a representative of just one caste? What is he but his caste.

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In view of dalit issues, all the parties appear hand in glove. No one talks of land reforms which are very necessary for uplifting socio-economic status of dalits and raising the level of business. Why all are silent on the issues of education quality in government school? Reason being, 95 percent dalit children join government school, because of poverty and social alienation. Scholarship funds are misused, then why any party does not speak a word for that? Does any party have guts to support such politics of change in public campaign? In the same way, the issues for betterment of women’s condition are out of political scene of Punjab.        

Ticket distribution:  Ticket distribution is a turning point in electoral politics. Ticket distribution plays major role in assembly election. The factors that play in ticket distribution are candidate image, economic status, religion, caste and gender. Also the high command culture in national parties influences the process of ticket distribution.  History tells that Punjab Congress has worse record in ticket distribution, as it has been discussed above that for being improper as well as elite dominated structure, a true ground report does not go to Punjab high command.

Now,the problem, Mr.Badal is facing is that the serious anti-incumbency. So, he may include and project new or fresh candidates to encounter such tight anti-incumbency situation. AAP is very quick and the first party in case of tickets distribution. The Kejriwal team and their trustworthy, Bhagwant Mann while anticipating the rebellion in Punjab committee are deliberately announcing tickets in small installments to avoid a big split in party. AAP could have done the best if it had stopped the unnatural factionalism and money bags in ticket distribution. Also it could have professed wider involvement of volunteers in candidate selection if only AAP had good organic structure based on strict party constitution and democracy from below. A rift that has started inside the party, after announcement of two lists of candidates is not going to stop till final phase. The volunteers have started to condemn the candidates on social media. According to them, almost all candidates are parachute and discarded stuff of Congress-Akalis or of filthy backgrounds having criminal, corrupt image. Simultaneously, these angry and segregated volunteers may accelerate the formation of fourth front which is being floated by the chief rebels of AAP. It is fact that the whole national leadership of AAP is from Hindu upper caste, so minorities and dalits are naturally and deliberately being alienated. Moreover, the Delhi-Punjab contradictions which are often visible in Punjabi proverbs are again catching fire. Apart from Bhawant Mann’s catchy oratory, the major reason of big crowd rallies was the strong cyber brigade working on social media day and night. But, now these volunteers are divided into two groups, debating over the functioning of mainstream AAP. It is the first time in the history of Punjab when middle class which was vehemently influenced by AAP’s propaganda, believing in a radical change, got a severe psychological setback in the politics. The way AAP is using sting operation as a popular instrument to expel its leaders, is surprising and may damage the remaining democracy inside the party and promote culture of Stalinist parties. Punjabi Diaspora who has a major role in establishing AAP in Punjab looks baffled and doubtful watching the power hungry intentions of leaderships while ticket distribution.

Chief-Ministerial face: Captain Amarinder Singh is the only C.M. candidate from Congress, and there is no open tussle about it now, as other contenders have accepted his leadership long time ago. After Bathinda rally, Captain Amarinder Singh has strategically chosen to stay away from media sensationalism and is working towards gathering anti Akali forces in the state. Moreover, Akali Dal seems to be fighting under the C.M. Parkash Singh Badal but who will be next Chief Mister remains scheme of future if SAD gets majority.

AAP has got stuck in an awkward condition. If it projects Bhagwant Maan or H.S.Phollka as C.M. candidate before election poll, then many claimants of C.M. chair may slip away. If Mr. Kejriwal declares himself or his wife, a C.M. candidate of Punjab, then it may lead to a sharp divide on the basis of outsider-insider against Punjabi. In that scenario, it will be like Bihar election where in the absence of strong leaders, Modi face was projected against Nitish Kumar after having anticipated a fragmentation in party’s senior leadership and what happened there in the form of – Bihari against Bahri? Consequently, a big swing of voters happened in favour of regionalism. Now in case of AAP in Punjab it is evident, that during the formation and development of AAP in Punjab, contribution was made more by ticket seekers than sincere followers of AAP’s original principles and its promise of change in political culture rather these are being ignored. AAP also may use the trick to appease all the remaining top leadership with luring and tempting them to declare each and every one of them as C.M. so that they would remain intact with party till election’s victory as was done in Haryana by BJP.

All the queries are in the womb of future. Whether, Akali Dal will save itself by taking the advantage of vote division between Congress and AAP? Is Punjab again ready for new political adventure in the form of AAP? Will Captain succeed in this political war as once he had done by rejoining Army leaving his royal lifestyle in 1965? Or Punjab may perhaps recall the same black days of President Rule?

Vikramjeet Vick

Special thanks to Amandeep Singh,Sawinder Singh and Apkirat Singh for sharing their valuable thoughts and ideas.

Rise of AAP in Punjab: A Challenge to the trend of pre-election alliances and bipolar tendencies (by Amandeep Singh on Oct 7, 2015)

[Despite the exclusionism of Dalits/Backward classes in AAP, just for being a young alternate it may be the first choice of electorates in Malwa region]


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Though, politics as a concept of power many times becomes a major cause of instability and turmoil in society. But, politics as a concept of administration is considered as means to resolve the contradictions that arise by the market economy and so called economic development, often, violating ideas of social equity and justice.  Ironically, all over country, the ‘development model’ and ‘economic growth’ has always been promised with tall claims of ‘Welfare for all’ and ‘Sabh ka Saath aur Sabh ka vikaas’ but India has always witnessed the exclusionism of subalterns and poor every time. In present context, the BJP’s blurred communal lines are now becoming very clear and sharp along with Jobless development and rise of inflation and resentment in peasantry whereas the governance through transparent institutional mechanisms has never been practiced. Mr. Modi advocating semi-fascist party BJP preached ‘Hindu civilization symbolisms’ with sugar coated development agenda. This symbolism helped ‘Modi Wave’ to touch all communities wooing the voters translating them into a big majority in 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Punjab is one such example where ‘Wefare for all’ has been practiced since 1995 (Moga declaration) by Badal-BJP alliance. Also, it is very unique to observe the least impact of Modi Wave in Punjab when whole country was resonating with the same wave. However, Lok Sabha elections generally incorporate more national interests or nationalized regional issues. But still the rise of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab points out little weakening of regional command on politics. The sharp anti-incumbency against eight years Badal rule in Punjab and against ten year congress regime at center opened a window for AAP in political trajectory of Punjab, for being it a national platform centered at Delhi. Anti-corruption narrative with promise of secular-democratic governance empowering the common man through Swaraj (decentralization of power) and transparency worked well in urban, semi-urban and rural regions, attracting the people at large. Consequently, AAP won four seats in first stroke and became equally competent to Akali Dal leaving congress and BJP behind. This impressive beginning of AAP in Punjab significantly challenged the trend of pre-election alliances and bipolar hegemony. For last two decade under the garb of ‘Punjabiyat’, politics has attained bipolarity in history of Punjab. The debacle of left and decline of BSP lent the appropriate space for emergence of bipolarity in Punjab with reciprocative turn of SAD and Congress. Now, AAP is trying to continue its own potential that has created perplexity in political arithmetic of Punjab. After, the acceptance of national perception of AAP in Punjab, and Mr. Modi being PM, BJP seems to be enthusiastic to expand its existing strong capability of translating votes into seats by claiming more candidatures in Assembly election 2017. Hence, bipolarity and trend of pre-election alliances seems to be challenged.

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Now, Mr. Parkash Badal would perhaps be recalling those days of radical memories, and cunningly seeking transformation of ‘Punajbiyat’ back to ‘Panthic agenda’. It seems very difficult for CM Badal to pursue same secular Punjabi Nationalism. Furthermore, CM Badal is also looking towards Bihar election for defeat of BJP to tackle diametrically opposite ideology and expansionist attitude of BJP by pursuing same framework of Punjabi nationalism.

Recent form of alliances, Subaltern and concept of Punjabiyat:

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Although, political representations from common man, dalits and women did not perform well in improving economic aspect of subaltern yet these representations helped them transforming their social life to some extent. Socialism in terms of social justice and empowering lower castes has always been missing in the manifestos of SAD and BJP. Many times CM Parkash Singh Badal has been alleged for denial of scholarships to dalit students and misuse of funds that were meant for their welfare. Dalits are in worst condition as compared to any other social groups in Punjab.  In 2014 Lok Sabha election, AAP got considerable votes from dalits especially dalit Sikhs in Malwa region breaking up Akalis dalit vote base because of failure of delivering social justice to dalits and backward classes by Badal government. Like other parties, despite the exclusionism of Dalits/Backward classes in AAP, just for being a young alternate it may be the first choice of electorates. It is also very fact that the ‘Punjabi Nationalism’ (under ‘co-operative federalism’) instead of ‘Sikh nationalism’ (Khalistan or Sikh rule or separatism) provided an appropriate platform for people to easily resonate with Indian nationalism. Consequently, AAP entered into political life of Punjab underlining formation of some unbound voters.

Modern form of alliances generally SAD-BJP and congress-left can been traced through the evolution of relio-caste demographic features, forming minority-majority persecutions and social divisions. A faction of Akalis, Akali Dal (Badal) started to find its stronghold over Sikh masses (especially Jat Sikh rural peasantry) by controlling Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee’s electoral dynamics in late 1980s. Often, Akali Dal (Badal) changed its allies to fulfill the need of challenging political hegemony of congress. But sometimes it did alliances with Janta party (JNP) and Bahujan Smaj Party (BSP) which suited the national political scenario or to handle expansion of Hindutva forces (BJS/BJP). A bitter experience of Akali Dal with post-coalition governments  and choosing electoral partners, initially BJS and some-times CPI,CPM, Janta Party according to need of political survival, made SAD chief Parkash Badal to realize about unfeasibility of winning independently alone with notion of Sikh nationalism. Hence the era of pre-election alliances has started with the beginning of 1990s. Akali Dal Badal tried to expand its vote base around the core of Jat Sikh support base through a formal shift of beloved ‘Sikh nationalism’ to ‘Secular regional nationalism’ overtly emphasizing on Punjab, Punjabi and  Punjabiyat.

Obviously, this scheme of ‘welfare for all’ based on the ‘inclusive accommodation’ and new electoral matrix (mix up of various flavors of regional, linguistic and religions – Panthic or Hindutva) facilitated the declining of Sikh militancy and terrorism after two decades’ upheaval. But it also thwarted the people’s struggle for survival and social justice. This ‘catch-all approach’ in contemporary electoral politics served the electoral gains but reduced the scope of actual transformation of social conditions in favour of subalterns. Consequently, the estrangement of dalits in Punjab has been increased significantly. Interestingly, Punjab has highest number of dalits about 30%, but still Backward classes (SCs & OBCs about 60%) are facing political marginalization in contrast to Uttar Pradesh where the dalit population is less than half of Punjab’s dalits. Total 3.2 percent land is in hands of dalits. Nearly 55% of dalits are involved in agricultural labour and dependent on landowning class.

Under the umbrella of so called Punjabi identity, the rise of dalits assertions in the form of various relgio-cultural outfits like Deras are witness of the exclusionism of dalits in mainstream Sikhism and Hinduism. The post-terrorism period embraces many Dalit-Akali, Dalit-Jat, and Dera-Sikh conflicts that are blots on the face of manufactured Punjabiyat of SAD-BJP (Panthic& Hindutwa forces). However, many conflicts are cheap instruments for electoral mobilizations but these are also the reflections of denial of equal social status to dalits and a little rise of capacities of dalits, in term of education or alternative livelihood over the bounded labour practice in villages. The dalits of Punjab are much improved in comparison to rest of Indian subaltern. The ideological doctrine of Islam (pre-Independence) and Sikhism which influenced the Punjab do not approve casteism or brahaminism. Paradoxically, caste mentality as social custom or sense of superiority controls social divisions avoiding the social relationship/inter-marriages in social life of communities. But, un-touchability has been almost dismantled (with exceptions) as a consequence of the religious tradition of inter-dining.

Like, Sikhs constitute minority in India, Hindu also make the same in Punjab. Therefore, it is unjust to imagine only minority-majority persecutions in Sikhs rather Hindu also feels same in Punjab. Subsequently, SAD and BJP are equally responsible for communal expressions of their opposite theo-ideologies and for electoral unity in power sharing. But, both are not concerned with subaltern and poor. On the other hand, congress which is usually famous for populist politics obviously made polices in the favour of dalits but those could not be implemented properly due social divisions and caste mentality prevailing in administrative structures. As social matrix also plays a vital role in political history of Punjab, therefore, it is must to understand the importance of social justice and social equality that cannot be assured without political participation of dalits/backward classes in parties’ top leadership. Also, since long, Punjabi identity with equal status to all religio-caste groups (manas ki jaat sabh ek pehchaanbo), with the fulfillment of spirit of sarbat da bhala (that is core of Sikhism) is not achieved in true sense, the social justice would not prevail. Thus, it is necessary to grasp the historical journey of formation of identity politics in Punjab.

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Historical trajectory of Punjab Politics:

Identity politics remains a soul of Punjab politics. The partition of country across the religious lines invoked the religious sentiments in Indian society that played a central role in restructuring of nation, especially in the formation of center-state relations. This emergence of religo-polity shaped new identities in Punjab giving birth to ‘theo-politcal ideology’ in the psyche of Akali leaderships. Religion, Culture and Language combinations in different demographic environments have materialized itself into different identities. The notion of Raj Karega Khalsa found space in core ideology of Akali Politics. However, Akalis expressed this notion openly during Punjabi Suba movement but the formation of Pakistan (latter on, which proudly declared itself Islamic Republic) also inspired the Akalis for establishing ‘Sikh rule’. Akali Dal started a new chapter of ‘regional nationalism’ that sometime turned to ‘Sikh nationalism’ or ‘Punjabi nationalism’ especially after 1965 it has shaped into Indian Nationalism then again culminated  to ‘Sikh nationalism’ while operation Blue-Star.

The Akali politics have undergone with much factionalism especially because of vacillation of religio-culture demography and ever emerging or changing regional issues be it linguistic matter, Punjabi Suba demand, Nirankari-Akali conflicts, Anandpur Resolution (1973,1978,1981), SYL project (1982),  Rise of Bhindranwale, Blue Star operation(1984), Delhi Riots after Smt. Indra’s assassination,  Rajiv-Longowal pact (1985), beginning of  Dalit assertions finding neo-religious outfits (1970s, 2000 onwards), River-Water distribution dispute, Moga declaration 1995 etc. Akali Dal has undergone through various phases in electoral journey – mergers with congress (in 1948 & 1956), Agitational phase (1956- 1967), post-coalition phase with tussle against center (1967-1992) and burden of pre-election alliance with BJP (1992 onwards).  Finally, Punjab has entered in the transitional phase of peace and stability, obviously bearing right wing patterns in regime of Akali Dal Badal and lesser accountability towards social justice.   Simultaneously, the congress party that was much dominant till division of Maha-Punjab experienced severe opposition by first United Front- a force with diverging ideological bodies- marking end of one party dominance in 1967 assembly election. Although, this United Front Government collapsed in very short span but it was the beginning of anti-congressism in Punjab.

                 After the reorganization of Punjab, the introduction of Green Revolution Strategy changed the socio-economic composition in Punjab. The era from 1967 to 1980 witnessed the attempts by Akalis to infiltrate anti-centerism doctrine (minority-majority persecutions) and over emphasized on communalization of secular demands, so as anti-congress (which was in power at center) mentality could prevail. Akali Dal who advocated for language based division of Maha Punjab and led many struggles for Punjabi Suba, again cunningly communalized the this secular demand to seek power by appeasing Sikh-Majority in Punjab. Both Bharti Jan Sangh (BJS) and Congress opposed the Punjabi Suba demand. Akali Dal organizational structures were dominant with Jat Sikh leadership especially from rural peasantry. Therefore, Dalits and Urban Hindus were not in favour of Punajbi Suba demand as dalits perceived that Punjabi Suba formation would lead to dominance of Jat Sikh community, on the other hand the Hindus were afraid of communal prejudice. Then, Giani Zail Singh won with unanimous majority in 1972 and became first Chief Minister of Punjab belonging to backward classes. Interestingly, Both Akalis and Bhartiya Jan Sangh, two diametrically opposite ideologies, and sometimes CPI,CPM, Jan Sangh and  Akalis existed together in post election coalitions-Akalis, BJS, JNP &left (1967,1969);  Akalis, BJS & JNP(1970-71,1977-80);  Akalis,CPI & CPM(1980) –  to keep Congress out of power.  Communalization of every regional secular demand by Akalis, Minority- Majority persecutions and assertion of Sikh identity governed number of breakdowns of post-election coalitions of Akalis and BJS/BJP. The issues of Hindi language, center-state relation and status of Chandigarh were much disputed among BJS and Akali Dal. The 1977 election as an anti-emergency election was uniquely fought under the banner of Janta Party (led by Mr. Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab) to win Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha elections. The credit goes to Janta Party whose revolutionary potential made a first surplus majority coalition government in Punjab otherwise Akali could never do same. And this Akali Dal Badal government faced failure because of Akali-Nirankari conflicts and clash of interests between the BJS and the Akali Dal.

The time period 1980 to 1990, is phase of rising militancy in Sikhs and violence became the only instrument to articulate grievances. This is an actual time span when Congress run center turned to monstrous and allowed the situation to drift in communalization. To tackle the opposition and protest of four party alliance ( Akalis, CPI, CPM and Janta Party)  against SYL project, the ruling congress party started to gain a support from a hardliner Sikh-Akali faction (led by Bhindranwale) who openly questioned the SGPC and Akalis. This strategy of congress succeeded in managing immediate political circumstances but finally resulted in disastrous consequences. It reminds the statement of Master Tara Singh, one of the torch bearers of Akali Dal that ‘everyone got justice, Muslim got Pakistan that they wanted but Sikhs got nothing’. No doubt, many injustices would have been ensued to Punjab or Sikh minority by center while nation building process. But, this statement clearly shows the pre-grievances in the minds of Akali leaders during independence which latter on reflected in separatist ideology in Akali factions. Obviously, rising resentment in middle and small peasantry due to green revolution policy added fuel to fire burning in political clash between congress and Akalis. This Sikh identity strengthened multifold during this time period followed by the factionalism in Akali Dal. Apart from Bhindranwale, Badal group and Talwandi- Tohra group were major factions representing different social classes in mainstream. Badal inclined to represent the agrarian class of middle to rich peasantry and business class whereas Talwandi-Tohra group tilted towards middle to lower peasantry. Therefore, it facilitated the pre-election alliances, Badal became close to BJP and Talwandi-Tohra tried to tilt towards left-CPM/CPI who had better ally of congress at center and finally shifted towards congress in Punjab. In 1992, BSP entered in Punjab with remarkable beginning but started to lose its dalits support base very soon. Thereafter, Akali Dal Badal left BJP and formed an alliance with the BSP for the 1996 parliamentary elections and the alliance won 11 seats out of 13. And this alliance could not sustain till 1997 assembly election as BSP made the government with the support of congress in UP. Badal again chose BJP as partner with promise of implementation of the Moga declaration (1995). But, in practice Badal neither could satisfy the BJP nor deliver social justice to dalits. Subsequently, Congress revived back and won 62 seats in 2002. However, Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh penetrated in rural Jat Sikh peasantry votes with his bold action on the issues of water-distribution in the favour of Punjab but lost the dalits Sikh vote bank due to interference in the internal classification of quota among schedule castes. Now, Punjab has been under Akali Dal Badal since 2007. In 2012, despite being much anti-incumbency, Badal(with 34%) managed to win as PPP’ chief Manpreet Badal acts as spoiler for congress(with 40%) by scoring 5% share. Now, AAP has been changing the scenario of Punjab, hence it is necessary to examine the result of 2014 parliamentary election in light of future of Punjab. And another facet of examination is to trace the disappearance of dalit identity in generic sense of political narrative of Punjab resulting to political marginalization of subaltern, though they constitute highest population percentage in state.

Dalits/Backward classes and Punjab polity:

Before independence, Dalit mobilizations around the communal ethos emerged in various movements –Ahmadiya movement (by Muslims), Arya Samaj (by Hindus), Ad-Dharm and conversions to Christianity (by Scheduled castes), Singh Sabha movement (by Sikhs) – that clearly surfaced the existing caste differentiations in all religions and also carved out new consciousness about dalits in Punjab. Consequently, these efforts also produced some leaders among dalits. After 1947, the congress party was dominated till division of Maha-Punjab in 1967. Although, there was no such high political consciousness in dalits, yet they used to support congress party for being its Gandhian Secular lines and co-option of main leaders from Ad-Dharmis (Chamars) within party. Congress party at national level wanted to form a new socio-economic base to tackle the rich peasantry leaderships (from regional parties), therefore, it emphasized on Garibi, un-touchability and  provision of reserved constituencies etc that created its pro-dalit perception. On the contrary, Akali Dal (dominated with Jat Sikh rich peasantry) aimed at communalization to target Sikh majority especially after the re-organization of Punjabi Suba. Even, at the peak of Sikh militancy and Sikh separatism, Congress appointed Giani Zail Singh, of non-Jat background as its leader who introduced a classification among the scheduled castes for reserved jobs strengthening the quota system. And Congress relied on ‘theory of faction’ for natural inflow of Jat Sikh votes. Here, Congress exploited the feudal-family structures prevailed in village economy which are equally undergoing in present scenario. But, left parties like CPI and CPM did not capture the imagination of dalits. As leftists relied on abstract philosophical discourse devoid of spiritual and cultural symbolism which could not associate with dalits for being lesser educated. Moreover, leftist leaders lacked lower caste leadership within their parties and they belonged to Jat Sikh caste whose origin was in Singh Sabha movement and Akali Dal.

Nearly 58% Sikhs, 38% Hindus and 4% other religious groups live in Punjab. Dalits constitutes approximately 30% of total population.  As per 2001 caste census, five castes Mazhabi, Chamar, Ad Dharmi, Balmiki and Bazigar together form 86.8 per cent of the total SC population. Mazhabi is numerically the largest SC, having 31.6 per cent of the total SC population, followed by Chamar (26.2 %), Ad Dharmi (14.9 %), Balmiki (11.2 %) and Bazigar (3.0 %). Remaining thirty two SCs constitute the residual 13.2 per cent of the total SC. Jat Sikh constitute nearly 30-35% of total population which is also dominant majority in Sikhs. This demographic data clearly shows that why Akali Dal and Congress try to target different socio-economic and religious groups. The fruit of green-revolution benefited Ad-Dharmis and Chamars who constitute a large part in Doaba region. On the other hand, the Mazhabhis living in Malwa and Majha regions gained least from green revolution as they were based on agricultural labour. The emergence of BSP in 1984 started to make impact in state after 1985, wooing the Dalits especially Chamars, Ad-dharmis in political mobilization. Dalit vote base of Ad-Dharmis and Ramdasis Chamars shifted from congress to BSP seeking the political representation of their own which were lacking in congress. On contrary, a large chunk of Mazhabhis Sikh withdrew their support from BSP and turned to Akali Dal (only Sikh outfit) with the consolidation of Sikh identity under the violent attack by center, after assignation of Smt. Indra Gandhi. Moreover the ideological discourse of Manuwad/Brahminism could not find association with Mazhabhi Sikhs that connected more to Hindu SCs. Secondly, Akali Dal started to give more tickets to Sikh SCs. Thirdly, BSP could not carry on movements against caste-ism or social injustice at ground level rather it directly went into electoral management. Similarly, AAP leadership is not interested in building movements against corruption or communal politics of SAD and social injustice in Punjab that it practiced earlier in Delhi before coming in Power. Aftermath, Akali Dal Badal feared that it would be hard task to win if BSP managed to do alliance with congress. Therefore, Akali Dal Badal became successful in making alliance with BSP during parliamentary election in 1996, changing the electoral dynamics of Punjab. It advantaged to Akali Dal in winning many seats (in 1997 assembly election) and gradually damaged BSP’s core vote base of Chamars who turned back to congress party. This was the major reason that’s why Congress won 62 seats in 2002 and made government under CM Capt. Amarinder Singh marking the end of scope of BSP politics in Punjab. But, it is interesting to see the assertions of dalits in the form ‘neo-religious identities’ like Deras- Radha Soami, Sacha Sauda, Nirankari, Ravi Dasis Dera Ballan etc.

No doubt, Deras are older than even Sikhism but it challenged mainstream Sikhism when the size of Deras’ followers had increased due to routine denial of dignity to SCs in Sikh outfits. With the march of ‘Punjabi identity’ and decline of pro-dalit political line of BSP, the expression of political marginalization of Dalits has been reflecting through increasing Dera-Alaki/Dera-Sikh/Dalit- Jat conflicts. Following the decline of BSP, Tahlan incident (2003), Bhaniaranwala kand (2004), Sacha Sauda conflicts (2007), Riots in Jallandhar after killing of Ravidasis leader in Vienna (2009), Dalit Boycott in Taran-Taaran (2012) and in Sangrur (2014) are few episodes through which dalits assertions manifested against Jat Sikh dominance in mainstream Sikhism. This phenomenon of rising Deras/separate Gurdwaras (like Bhai Jeevan Singh or Ravidasis Gurdwara) or clash between Dalits and Jat Sikhs indicates the religio-political hegemony of Jat Sikh community in all walks of life and rising educational and certain economic access among dalits.

Now, in present context, the introduction of AAP phenomenon in Punjab supported by dalits in Malwa region damaging the Akali Dal’s dalit Sikh vote bank created a new hope in the BJP heads to encourage dalits outfits (like SC Morcha) in its political mobilization so as new equation of dalits and Hindu urban combination can stand BJP as independent party in Punjab or at least push SAD on back foot. Contrarily, AAP is trying to rely on ‘theory of faction’ like congress to impress Jat factions in villages but ignoring the dalits. AAP for being claimant of structural administrative transparency lacking doctrine of social justice seems not much aware of social realities. Moreover, AAP as movement against corruption has neither found any expression in Punjab nor started any concrete efforts to consolidate lower caste cadres and leadership in party structures, though a good vote base of dalits (from SAD) shifted to AAP in Malwa region.

Reviewing Electoral verdict of Punjab in 2014 election:-

The appearance of AAP on the political map of Punjab pulled in votes of all the sections of society like rural, urban, or semi-rural from every religio-caste groups. AAP became successful to carve out a vote share of 24.47% claiming four MPs in parliament. On the other hand, both Congress and BJP-SAD suffered with decline in vote share. Interestingly, Congress lost bigger share in every region rural, semi-urban and urban by 9.5%, 16% and 13% respectively. But, Congress suffered loss of 16% in semi-urban region whereas SAD got set back of 9% in urban areas.

Party SAD(B) Congress BJP BSP AAP
Change in vote share

2009 to 2014 (%)

-7.5 -12.0 -1.3 -3.8 +24.47
2009 (% share)

Parliamentary election

33.85 45.23 10.06 5.75
2014 (%share)

Parliamentary election

26.37 33.19 8.77 1.91 24.47
2012 (% share)

Assembly election

34.73 40.09 7.18 4.49

    Source: Source: Election Commission of India Reports 2009-2014.

  Vote share (%) transformed to AAP in 2014 as compared to 2009 Lok Sabha

Election

  SAD(B) Congress BJP BSP total=SAD+

Congress

+BJP+BSP

AAP
Rural -8.2 -9.5 -0.45 -3.96 -22.11 +22.3
Semi-Urban -6.5 -16 -1.0 -4.32 -27.87 +29.8
Urban -9.0 -13 -2.3 -1.62 -25.92 +25.6
Total -7.5 -12 -1.3 -3.80 -24.60 +24.4

Source:  Article “Decoding Electoral Verdict in Punjab: Future of Regional Parties?”  By Pramod Kumar

Now, it is worth to observe that dalits votes went away from Akali Dal in rural region of Malwa that comprised significant a part in 8.2% of lost rural vote share. Similarly, Congress faced some damage of dalits votes in rural areas of Malwa region but it also experienced more loss of  Hindu upper caste vote in urban centers with overall loss of 13% share. No doubt, AAP cut into vote share of SAD in semi-urban area but it took a good amount of vote nearly 29.8% in semi-urban regions against congress. Obviously, AAP pulled in the votes from congress party, giving it a strong shock of 16% votes in semi-urban sectors. Therefore, petty-bourgeoisie shopkeepers generally from Khatri-Sikh, Banias and Khatri-Hindu chose AAP instead of SAD-BJP or Congress.

Reserved Assembly Constituencies (34) won by Parties in assembly election 2012 and parliamentary election 2014

 

Party SAD Congress AAP BJP BSP Total
2012 (117) 21 10 3 0 34
2014 (13 adjusted over 117) 6 12 14 2 0 34

After the decline of BSP, congress has restored its Hindu-dalit vote base whereas Sikh dalits dragged into SAD as they could not find a proper space in BSP against Hindu-dalits. As if the reserved 34 constituencies of winning candidates are compared to 2009 assembly election, then in 2014, a big swing of 15 seats (that was won by SAD in 2009) has undergone in the favour of AAP. This indicates that dalits who were vacillating between SAD and Congress, shifted towards AAP leaving SAD in Malwa region. However, congress somehow successfully continued its vote base in dalits (Hindu dalits) especially in Doaba region and some parts of Majha region. Therefore, it necessary for AAP to mobilize dalits and fight for social justice so that it can carry on the support of dalits in the regime of Badal with increasing atrocities on dalits. Only political force with the banner of social justice and transparent governance empowering the common man and subaltern can survive long term. And this is century of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Gandhain Secular democracy that can lead the peace and pluralism in the South-Asia region of the Globe.