Opinion: Why the Congress manifesto has rattled corporate monopolies, RSS and BJP

For the first time Nyay Patra, the Congress manifesto, has made social justice a serious election issue by promising nationwide caste census and removal of 50 per cent Supreme Court cap on reservations.
Rahul Gandhi (centre) and other Congress leaders with the party manifesto
Rahul Gandhi (centre) and other Congress leaders with the party manifesto

Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have released their 2024 Lok Sabha election manifestos. For the first time, their approach to welfarism and democracy is expressed clearly. The Congress manifesto ‘Nyay Patra’ has two-fold welfare agendas: class and caste. In terms of standing by the poor (class), it promised the transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the account of a woman in a family that lives below the poverty line. All eligible unemployed youth will get Rs 1 lakh per year as assistance with an apprentice placement in public and private sector companies.

For the first time, it made social justice a serious election issue by promising nationwide caste census and removal of 50 per cent Supreme Court cap on reservations. This will change the present mode of budget money expenditure. The BJP, on the other hand, retained the old policy of handing over huge contracts to monopoly capitalists, who transferred huge amounts of money to the party through electoral bonds for getting big projects. The Prime Minister, who belongs to the Other Backward Castes (OBC) community, has no single programme for them in the manifesto. But he included in it Modi’s guarantees, Uniform Civil Code, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and so on.

The new direction of the Congress

The 2024 Congress manifesto has the potential to change the course of the Indian political system and de-communalise capital by expanding the scope of welfare democracy. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)/BJP and the pro-Hindutva capital are anti-welfare democracy. Though the economists and educationalists of Hindutva ideology pretend to follow the American private economy model, they are not even ready to provide equality in school education in the country. Some monopoly companies are running completely English medium schools with a Western syllabus. The RSS/BJP nationalism is fine with this level of privatisation. They gloss over the fact that the American school education is completely in the government sector. But the Baniya-Brahmin monopoly houses run their own private schools. Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai is a good example. Many such private schools are coming up now.

Gujarati-Mumbai capital and Congress

The Indian capital in Baniya-Brahmin monopoly houses of Western India grew into its present form during the UPA regime under the leadership of Manmohan Singh. But at the same time, the Gujarati-Mumbai based monopoly houses such as Ambani, Adani, Vedanta, and so on began to slowly move into the Hindutva fold, particularly after the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi. They found a strong Hindutva leader in him and they themselves projected him for Prime Ministership. Finally they saw to it that the RSS accepted his candidature and now he controls the party and RSS structures with full support of the Gujarat-Mumbai capital. The communalised capital not only discarded the Congress but turned against it.

However, for Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi forces, this communalised capital control of the nation poses a threat. It wants a massive privatisation of all industrial units and also the educational institutions. The Baniya-Brahmin monopoly capital expands itself into global markets by creating a totally English-educated Dwija population. The children of monopoly capitalists study in private schools in India and Western universities and aim to be global entrepreneurs. Already big monopoly companies like the Ambanis and the Adanis have become huge globally investing companies. They have never shown any concern for the farmers and agrarian poor by sharing their profits with some kind of philanthropic aid. Since the Dwija castes are against reservation, they want to support the communalised politics, through the structures of RSS/BJP and de-secularised markets and capital. In the process, the entire political system becomes anti-poor.

The poor masses of India mainly constitute the SC/ST/OBC masses. When we say anti-poor, we essentially mean anti-SC/ST and OBCs. They also dictate ideological agendas to the RSS/BJP by controlling the narrative of nationalism. Though the Congress also depended on Western capital for a long time, it never allowed its ideology to be controlled by the capital. Since the Congress worked with a secular ideological agenda, it did not allow communal influence into the governance through capitalists who believed in Hindu communalism. It also did not allow the monopoly houses to dictate policy directions in the governance. But the RSS/BJP completely surrendered to them because their own communal thinking and some of the capitalists who finance their agendas have many things in common. Both the RSS/BJP and communal capitalists have no concern for the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasis.

The 2024 manifesto of the Congress tries to change the course by including an ideology of deeper welfarism. Caste census, Rs 1 lakh for every poor woman, and Rs 1 lakh as unemployment aid for poor youth are part of the manifesto. But the party is facing an internal Dwija revolt. Anand Sharma, a senior Congress leader and Brahmin, opposed the caste census by writing a letter to the president of the party, Mallikarjun Kharge. If he were an OBC or Dalit or Adivasi, he would not have written such a letter. He has shown his anti-OBC stance openly. However, Rahul Gandhi is not deterred like Indira Gandhi in 1971. When she proposed Garibi Hatao, bank nationalisation, and abolition of privy purses, all senior upper caste leaders opposed her.

Caste and Congress         

For the first time, the Congress addresses the entire caste issue from a national perspective in the manifesto. When it is addressing the question of caste census, it is addressing the question of pushing the society towards castelessness in the long run. The classical Indian slave system turned into a caste conscious assertive system with the British collecting caste census till 1931. But the most gigantic task ahead of the Congress is the communalised capital that now stands against the party. It supplies massive amounts of money to RSS/BJP forces. The communal capital that became a huge monopoly capital now wants to weaken the agrarian kulaks (wealthy peasants) and take over the agrarian markets. The three farm laws that were made by the RSS/BJP government were part of that combined thinking of RSS/BJP and monopoly capital. The educational capabilities of the rural masses are kept low because of unfurnished schools with a regional language teaching.

The productive masses in different states will be forced to remain in regional languages even in the future if the RSS/BJP are in power in Delhi. The RSS allows this public private education to reinforce the varna dharma order so that no competition comes from the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi forces to the Dwijas. They want to control the three pillars of power—political power, temple power, and the power of capital. The Gujarat-Mumbai capital knows that Narendra Modi will play their game while claiming to be an OBC. This situation has created a deeper crisis for the Congress.

Anti-Muslim agenda of Gujarati capital

The anti-Muslim ideology of the Gujarati capital goes back to Gandhi-Jinnah conflict days. After all, both the leaders came from families of the upwardly mobile business Baniya community. The religious conversions of Western Indian Dwijas into Islam created a communally charged intellectual environment in the civil society also during the freedom struggle itself. The Muslim League headed by Jinnah (whose family converted from Baniya background) and Allama Iqbal (whose family converted from Hindu Brahmin background) and forces like Tilak, Savarkar (who happen to be Brahmins themselves) and others who later formed the Hindu Mahasabha. Injecting religious ideology into nationalism and freedom struggle has led to division of the nation. Now RSS/BJP and communal capitalist forces are creating a new in the country. The Shudra/OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis are concerned about the future of their children.

Mahatma Gandhi had his own share of spiritualising politics and capital. He mobilised the Birla Goenka families into Hindu conservatism and also into the Congress fold. The Birla family built several temples and he himself used them for political prayers. Now Ambani and Adani capital is fully with RSS/BJP and Modi.

Though the pro-Gandhi Nehru capital sustained the Congress with ups and downs till 2014, since then a part of the Indian capital became totally communal and moved away from the party. Rahul Gandhi had to work out alternate strategies to check this mighty communal capital and RSS/BJP combination. It was in this situation that he undertook the Bharat Jodo Yatra with the slogan ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’ in a communal (‘Nafrat Ke Bazaar’) market and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra which promised to x-ray the nation for inequality and distribute the resources based on data from caste census. Rahul is challenging both the communal ideology of the RSS/BJP and the communal capitalists.

The 2024 election manifesto shows us the way.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist, and author. His latest book is The Clash of Cultures—Productive Masses Vs Hindutva-Mullah Conflicting Ethics.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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