By Sushil Kutty
The significance of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin’s ‘social justice federation’ cannot be overstated though only the politically illiterate will think of it as a social justice forum, when in reality, it’s a group of like-minded opposition parties seeking to cement opposition unity to dethrone the BJP from all positions of power everywhere.
That essentially means dethroning Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bring Modi down and the BJP will be on its knees. The BJP also has to be defeated because the Modi-led BJP government is hell-bent on replacing ‘OBC’ with ‘EWS’ in the reservation column. Don’t forget, the BJP is a “Baniya-Brahmin party” and the ‘EWS’ is code-word for upper castes.
Stalin’s fight in 2024 is with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu head K Annamalai, who has been hard at raising the spirits of those who don’t answer to the call ‘Dravidian’. Annamalai is fighting for his own brand of social justice goals, in the context of Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian-driven politics.
Chief Minister MK Stalin’s social justice conference asked participating opposition parties to “cast aside ego” and “fight (Modi/BJP) together”. The significance of the social justice forum was that it was 24 carat political. It exposed claims that the opposition parties were close to achieving opposition unity. The desperation was evident when the social justice forum made it clear to those who chose to miss the conference that the time for “fence-sitting is over”.
Owners of political parties like the BJD’s Naveen Patnaik, and YSR Congress Party’s Jagan Reddy were invited but didn’t show up at the conference, even virtually. Apparently, there are parties and prominent Opposition leaders who do not have confidence in the talk of opposition unity. But to call them “fence-sitters” is wrong. On the contrary, they are smart. Naveen Patnaik is a seasoned politician and a several-time Chief Minister of Odisha. Jagan Reddy is a younger version of Patnaik in Andhra Pradesh, who believes the fence is perhaps a safer perch!
The ‘All India Federation for Social Justice’ wants something else — a nationwide caste census! The argument goes this will help deliver social justice more effectively, and more precisely. The fact is, knowing caste numbers is key to setting up election victories. Stalin’s federation must either think of the electorate as naïve, or first-time fools!
There are other questions: Do we as a people and a country want to put an end to castes or help entrench them in perpetuity? Don’t we get the feeling Stalin and his federation of political parties have taken it upon themselves to give to castes a newer and longer lease on life in the name of social justice? Is this how Brahmanical patriarchy is fought and Brahmincal order dismantled?
The federation’s social justice call is more in reply to the BJP’s attacks on Rahul Gandhi in the name of the OBCs. Centuries of casteism hasn’t taken anything out of its capabilities to be used to divide and rule. Among the participants doing a good social justice turn to the caste-system was Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, who took direct aim at Naveen Patnaik, and YSRCP’s Jagan Reddy, revealing in the process that there were opposition parties that “did not want to fight the BJP.”
It became clear during the “meeting” that questioning the BJP on OBC/EWS wasn’t spur of the moment. Thanks to Rahul Gandhi’s “Modi-thieves” interchangeability, “OBC” is well on its way to becoming a major 2024 election issue. The differences over whether reservations should be on economic criteria will only add to the issue’s volatility. Derek O’Brien hit the nail on the head: “I know we keep saying this is not a political platform. Of course these are political platforms, we should not shy away…”
The conference title ‘Taking forward the Struggle for Social Justice and a Joint National Programme for Social Justice Movement’ was a red-herring. Participants included Ashok Gehlot, Hemant Soren, Tejashwi Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Akhilesh Yadav, Farooq Abdullah, Chaggan Bhujbal, and AAP’s Sanjay Singh. All of them hardcore heavyweight politicians.
Of course, Stalin spoke of “study circles” to inform the new generation about social justice, of Periyar, B R Ambedkar and Jyotirao Phule. He also spoke of federalism, state autonomy, secularism, equality, fraternity… but all the talk at the meeting led to one objective: Opposition unity. That the Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party wasn’t in the mix spoke volumes about social justice.
The major grouse was the BJP bringing “economically” into the criteria for reservation. Class cannot be criteria, but caste will be, and must be. Only then will there be social justice. Seems like no lessons have been learned in 75 years, 60 of them Congress rule. For Stalin, giving a 10 percent quota to EWS is unthinkable. “There is discrimination, exclusion, untouchability, and all such problems. The cure for all these is a single medicine: social justice,” said Stalin.
Not surprisingly, Stalin is all for a separate quota for Muslims. And the Congress seconded him. The great thing is this is how elections are won, and not lost. The end justifies the means. Removing Modi/BJP should be the one and only goal. What the BJP calls minority appeasement, and casteist configurations, should be embraced with the participation of all the opposition parties. (IPA Service)