Are there many ‘regional’ Congresses within the Congress? And does it have similarities with what it was a century ago?In this July 2003 article Yogendra Yadav dissects the “New Congress Voter” and concludes that while the Congress Party has a base that is variegated at the State level and after the 1990s it has lost it upper caste/ high (incorrectly termed “middle”) class base, it’s support has increasingly come from those who are socially marginalized- lower castes, religious minorities and women.
The new Congress voter in the post-Congress polity is more likely than ever before to be a socially and economically marginalized citizen: some-one at the receiving end of the caste, communal, class and gender hierarchy. The new Congress voters are not new in the sense of coming from social groups that have never voted for the Congress. All these groups are known to be traditional Congress supporters. What is new about the profile of the Congress voter is the salience and the visibility that these groups have now come to command. An examination of the patterns of the Congress voter at the state level also alerts us to the strong relationship between the social profile of the Congress and its political fate. It does well in states where it is the party of the socially marginalized groups; wherever it has lost its grip on the marginal groups, it has been pushed to political marginalization.
The way out, he suggsted then, is for the Congress to either try to reclaim its support among the upper caste/upper class men or to reconstruct itself as the Party of the plebian.
Indeed it was the poor and those left out of the BJP’s ‘Shining India’ that brought the Congress/ UPA to power. But post 2004, the Manmohan Singh government is inclined more towards pampering the urban upper classes. Like the Bourbons, it has forgotten nothing- and learnt nothing- from its previous pursuance of blind liberalization in 1991.
It is a strange twist of history- one cannot but help remember the late 19th century when the Congress was a platform for the brown sahibs. With the expansion of neo- liberalism, it has become once again primarily a party of the neo Brown Sahibs- instead of looking for clerical jobs at the East India Company, they now look for BPO and programming jobs. The caste composition remains the more or less the same- with the knowledge of the Sanskrit of kalyug (aka English) being a sure asset.
History repeats itself, its is sometimes nauseating but always exasperating. And the second time, it may as well be a farce, as Old Man Marx wagered in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
How heavily the political dice is loaded against the poor in India is evident from the Congress- BJP identity of views on policies. Both on foreign and economic policies the BJP has either supported the UPA (as in Iran recently) or has not opposed it (economic policies). Instead, the real opposition has come only from the Left, that still continues to support the UPA on the third important parameter- against communal fascism.
Meanwhile, given the continuous groundwork that is being done by the RSS/ Hindutva formations and the continued decline of interest that the UPA government has displayed towards those at the receiving end of globalization till now, is a sure recipe for the return of the BJP/ NDA.
The Left, for all its faults continues to be the only watchdog, and the Congress can continue to ignore it only at its own future electoral peril.