Prabhatesh Tripathi @ Bhopal: The disappearance of Brahmins from the politics and political discourse of Madhya Pradesh appears to be near total, with just four of the 40-odd serious contestants in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections belonging to the community.
Shyama Charan Shukla was the last Brahmin to make it to the post of chief minister in the state and might well be the last for decades to come, despite Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling the state for 15 years, that has proximity with the community. It was in 2003 when BJP regained power from Congress and since then Brahmins have only been waiting for their revival.
Brahmins were firmly entrenched in the governance since the British era, even the first chief minister of reorganised Madhya Pradesh was a Brahmin, a Congress man Ravishankar Shukla. Even with the roots in administration since British Raj Brahmins were never able to dominate the state’s legislature or executive.
First Brahmin chief minister
Shukla, a Brahmin was the first to hold the chief minister chair after being nominated in 1956. Shukla was nominated as chief minister of re-organised Madhya Pradesh, but that did not forward their cause. Former primer minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted Shukla to retire so that Takhatmal Jain, his close aid could become chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. (Excerpts: Mukhyamantri Madhya Pradesh Ke by Mayaram Surjan)
Shukla was a tall figure who brought other bickering sections of the party around. Following Shukla, the state of Madhya Pradesh till date has witnessed six Brahmin chief ministers including Kailash Nath Katju, Dwarka Prasad Mishra, Shyama Charan Shukla, Kailash Chandra Joshi and Motilal Vora.
Brahmins had their presence in the party till Dwaraka Prasad Mishra was chief minister, after Mishra faded out in 1967, the Congress was dominated by different non-Brahmin lobbies. For a decade between 1957-67, the proportion upper caste MLAs in Congress was around 50 percent. After 1980 the conditions deteriorated further as most of state politics was dominated by Thakurs with princely lineage.
It was Motilal Vora, a Rajasthan born Brahmin who enjoyed favour of all be it PV Narsimha, Soniya Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and even Arjun Singh. Vora himself became the chief minister after Arjun Singh, former chief minister was appointed governor of Punjab and it was Singh who had recommended Vora for the CM post.
In the past 25-30 years, many Brahmins moved out leaving their bastions for which the Vindhya region (Baghelkhand) is politically marked. Leaving the customary job of ritual processing the community has spread out across the world marking presence but Madhya Pradesh has not been able to produce a national level politician.
Co-opting with princes
The first Congress government in the state estimated that 170 out of 296 assembly constituencies and 20 out of 37 parliamentary constituencies were located in part or in totality on the territory of former princely states. The Congress co-opted with Maharajas of Gwalior, Rewa, Surguja, Sarangarh, Narsingarh, and Kanker establishing an already settled ‘vote banks’ owned by former princes.
It was only after 1980 when Brahmin presence was evidentially on decline in the state politics. Arjun Singh, then chief minister had projected himself as the representative of plebeians. It was almost a decade after Mahajan commission recommendations the percentage of the Congress OBC MLAs rose from about 14-15 percent in 1980-1990 to about 19-23 percent in 1993-2003.
The Brahminical weight continued to decline whereas that of Rajputs was increasing. After Arjun Singh, it was another prince Digvijay Singh mentored by Arjun Singh who led the state for another ten years from 1993 to 2003. The 1993 elections, which brought Congress to power in the state, sealed any possibility of a Brahminical resurgence
In these 10 years 23.9 percent of OBC were nominated by the Congress and the representation rose by almost six percent in between 1993-2003.
Coalition of extremes
It was Digvijaya Singh who transformed the caste profile of Congress by large during his two tenures as the chief minister. Post Mandal commission both parties had carefully planned to mobilise the lower caste affairs in their favour.
While being at the helm of state government in 1993 his council of minister constituted less of upper caste and more of OBC than previous Congress governments. The Rajputs, maintained the dominance than Brahmins who were better represented in BJP reign in 1990-1992 led by Sunderlal Patwa, indicating decline of Brahmin presence in the Congress. It was the Patwa reign during which BJP garnered the tag of Baniya-Brahmin party.
The Digvijaya reign primarily benefitted the scheduled castes/tribes through Dalit Charter which Singh brought to fore in his second reign while carefully adjusting OBC in his first tenure. Once again, the primary beneficiaries at the end were Rajputs and SC’s, a coalition of two extremes for survival where Brahmins were replaced by Rajputs.
BJP, the Baniya-Brahmin party did not do much change after coming to power in 2003 because the share of Brahmins underwent a constant steady decline making OBC’s the most benefitted section of society by the saffron party.
The OBC growth
Since 2003, every year the representation of OBC has been increasing in both parties while Rajputs/Thakurs are dominant with their resistance. It was quite natural, because OBCs account for more than 60 percent of the population. Brahmins constitute only six percent of the population.
Uma Bhati, a Lodhi who was voted as chief minister in 2003 is an OBC and once again is a potential candidate for Lok Sabha election from Bhopal constituency. Since then BJP provided Madhya Pradesh with two more OBC CM’s in Babulal Gaur a Yadav and Shivraj Singh Chouhan a Kirar.
Electoral process for Lok Sabha is ongoing and both parties has given tickets to Brahmin candidates from Vindhya region. BJP has given to ticket to Riti Pathak from Sidhi and Janardan Mishra from Rewa. Whereas Congress has fielded Rajaram Tripathi from Satna and Siddharth Tiwari from Rewa.
After 15 years of BJP reign of which most was led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan Madhya Pradesh has got Gopal Bhargava as a state level Brahmin leader in form of leader of opposition after Congress wrested the power in 2018 assembly elections. In such conditions Brahmins have lesser chance to regain their ground.
What they say
Veteran journalist Vijaydutt Shridhar said Brahmins had majority presence till independence because they were most educated then and had presence in administration. Later the rational movement thrusted by commissions such as that of Mahajan and Mandal and the resultant after effects pushed Brahmins to the margins.
Jayram Shukla, another senior journalist said Entry of BSP in Madhya Pradesh in 1980 s forced the two political parties to rethink on their vote bank strategy. Further the slogan of Ram Manohar Lohia Pichhda Maange Sau Me Saath reshaped the caste structure of politics in the state. It was after 1980 when the paradigm shift took place after which OBC climbed to the top of the pyramid. Shukla aided the sun is setting for Brahmins in politics in the state and chances are almost nil from both parties for the revival of the community.
HL Trivedi, state president of Samanya Picchdaa Evam Alpsankhyak Samaj (SAPAKS) party said that both Congress and BJP has only taken advantage of Brahmins and gave them nothing. The community itself is responsible for the situation as they could not see beyond individual growth hence the community suffered in political stature.