KCR himself has many streaks of Hindutva thinking. Perhaps the call for a ‘new Constitution’ was his way of appeasing the RSS while opposing Modi.
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint Team
India always knew that there was, and perhaps still is, a threat to the Constitution from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS, because they are rooted in the ‘Sanathan Brahminic’ spiritual system. Their theoreticians and founding leaders disapproved of the Constituent Assembly, the drafting committee and B. R. Ambedkar heading it. K. B. Hedgewar and M. S. Golwalkar spoke and wrote about their disagreement with the Constitution as ‘un-Indian’. Their idea of ‘Indianness’ was a constitution affirming caste order, but not one that enshrined the steps to abolish the Varna system and drive the socio-economic system towards equality.
The Indian Communists also opposed the Constituent Assembly and attempted to oppose drafting of a democratic constitution calling it a “bourgeoisie attempt.” But fortunately, they too failed, and the present Constitution came into being on 26 January 1950.null
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on 22 February 2000, constituted a national commission headed by Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah to review the entire Constitution, not just sections of it. This idea was/is different from amending its provisions — wise to suit the needs of the changing society. But the move was rejected by vast sections of Indians. The review committee died a natural death.
After the RSS/BJP came to power in 2014, they didn’t talk about changing the Constitution, but sections associated with the Sangh system keep talking about removal of the Constitution. Most people, though, have been ignoring this threat.
KCR’s ‘new Constitution’
A few days ago, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) said in a press meeting that he is opposed to the present Constitution and will start a movement to change it. While talking about the Budget, he asked the mediapersons present there on 1 February 2022 to write that he is “opposed to the BJP and Congress rule and also the present Constitution”. When some media people tried to ignore it, he said he was serious about it: “Let there be a debate about changing the whole Constitution” and “we need a new Constitution”. There are two ways we can approach this: either ignore such a plan by a small regional party leader’s idea of a ‘new Constitution’ for a country like India or see it as a serious attempt to appease the RSS while opposing Modi. Whichever way you look at it, one thing’s certain: this very talk by a sitting chief minister of a state is disturbing. Because no other chief minister has made such a proposal.
KCR himself has many streaks of Hindutva thinking. He is deeply religious; spends a lot of money on yagyas, yagas and kratus and temples. He is a serious follower of Vaishnava peetadhipathi (head of a Vaishnava mutt) Chinna Jeeyar. Though he comes from a Velama landlord (Shudra dominant caste) family, touches the feet of only Brahmins; sometimes prostrates at their feet in public. He touched the feet of Pranab Mukherjee, when he was president, and E. S. L. Narasimhan, when he was Telangana governor, as both of them were Brahmins. He did this in public at the airport, on podiums and other places. But he never touched the feet of Ram Nath Kovind (the present President, a Dalit) or Tamilisai Soundararajan (present Governor of Telangana, an OBC woman). He is also spending about Rs 130 crore state money on Yadadri temple reconstruction. It is this deep religious dimension of his personality that makes him get into the grey areas of questioning the Constitution He is also known for his feudal behaviour, even in public.
It’s not that KCR does not have a right to hold such views personally. But as a chief minister, who swore by the Constitution, cannot start a movement to change it. Many of its founders lived in jail for years for the sake of India’s freedom. They were part of the Constituent Assembly, which drafted this Constitution after a lengthy debate on every major issue that the country has encountered historically.
Issue with RSS’ Gana Rajya system
The other day Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS suggested that there was a better democracy in the ancient Gana Rajya system. This is a new myth being spread with so-called nationalist propaganda. Several indirect remarks are being made about this ‘colonial model of Constitution.’ Gana Rajyas were small tribal units with equal distribution of power that operated on a local level. The best example of that is the Vajji tribal Gana Rajya democracy that existed during Buddha’s own lifetime. He protected it from Magadha state usurpation. That is not at all comparable with the modern constitutional democracy of India. (I’ve previously discussed this in my book God As Political Philosopher: Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism)null
Our constitutional democracy is an unparalleled experiment in India and the world, with a population of this size (1.3 billion people). Any attempt to dismantle it is a dangerous proposition. All welfare schemes that the oppressed, exploited masses are receiving will be hampered. India, because of its caste system, untouchability and tribalism, did not have universal education before 1950. With the adoption of the Constitution, the exploited masses got opportunities that they had never known before. We are fortunate that Ambedkar crafted this Constitution and the other founders accepted it. Small, power-hungry leaders like KCR, or other Hindutva forces and ideological folds should not be allowed to steer off the Constitution.
At one stage in life, I too, was part of a Left-wing ideological force that was working for abolition of constitutional democracy. I was fortunate to realise quite early, by the time I wrote my well-known book Why I Am Not a Hindu in the early 1990s, that ideas like these were a self-destructive political and ideological process.
India needs the unending functioning of this Constitution, just as the American constitution has been working for hundreds of years. I am glad that people all over Telangana are disapproving of KCR’s idea and the opposition parties and social organisations are protesting against it. He will do well to remember that even for him, it is a self-destructive idea.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His most known books are Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Shudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy, and Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution. Views are personal.