PM Modi addressing a rally in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh on Saturday
Modi may tom-tom his OBC credentials but he has done nothing till now to benefit them. OBCs have been asking for reservation in private sector, in Parliament and state legislatures on par with SC/STs
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed four years as the Prime Minister of India; he was sworn in on May 26, 2014 in a pompous ceremony attended by many international dignitaries. Throughout his election campaign, he told the nation that he was the first Other Backward Class (OBC) candidate vying for the position of the Indian Prime Minister.
Earlier, Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga from Karnataka, became Prime Minister and ruled India for a short period in a coalition of multiple parties. Though he is considered an OBC in the broad OBC category of Mandal Commission definition, he comes from an agrarian upper caste, which is not enlisted in the OBC category of his state. Charan Singh, too, hailed from the Jat community, which is again an agrarian upper caste. And both Charan Singh and Deve Gowda did not come to power with a national mandate but with support of multiple parties.
Narendra Modi is the first person with an OBC certificate to come to power with a national mandate of his own. He comes from the Modh Ganchi oil business community which never had anything to do with agrarian production. It is a registered backward Bania community of Gujarat.
According to Wikipedia, Modh Ghanchis are the sub-caste of Modh Baniya. They are business people. The Modi surname is most commonly found amongst people from the northern and western states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. It is mostly associated with Banias, grain merchants and grocers. Surnames like Delvadia / Modh / Modi / Sahu / Sahoo / Ganiga Gandhi are interrelated.
After Modi became the Prime Minister, jobs have shifted to monopolistic private sector companies in a massive way. Privatisation of PSUs has been the main drive of the Modi government. This is the main reason why PSUs have not produced many jobs. The four year rule of Modi has been the most jobless period for India and most number of unemployed people are OBC/SC/STs. The upper caste youths have been getting jobs in the private sector as social connections work there. So-called merit is not at all the hallmark of the private sector’s system of recruitment
Even Mahatma Gandhi’s family also comes from the Modh Bania background. Within this community, there are both Hindus and Jains. Their strict vegetarianism comes from the Jain background. How these communities, which in terms of Hindu Varna system are Banias and have the right to education including that of Sanskrit, have come under the OBC definition is a mystery. They are not an educationally and culturally backward community. In Gujarat, the Ganchis are culturally and educationally much ahead than the Patels and other lower strata communities who had no historical right to educate themselves. If Bania Ganchis are OBCs, the Patels are much entitled to OBC reservation.
However, once Narendra Modi passed himself off as the first OBC PM candidate, the agrarian OBCs across the country were thrilled and they voted for him, though some of them have never been voters of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
But the important question is whether he showed serious concern for the OBCs, considered “Neech Jatis” by the Brahmin- Bania hegemonic forces. When Priyanka Gandhi used the phase “Neech Rajneeti,” Modi retorted by saying that she was actually referring to his caste background. He also used in his favour Mani Shankar Iyer’s statement that “he can sell tea at the Congress meet”. Every attack by Congress leaders was dressed up as an upper caste jibe which he used in his favour, wearing the OBC brand on his sleeves. Modi declared that if he was voted to power, he would turn the next decade into one of the Dalits/OBCs.
How much has his rule benefitted the OBCs? The only visibly known proposal that his government out forward for the OBCs is that the OBC Commission be given constitutional status on par with the SC/ST commissions. In all Central universities, the backlog of empty positions was not filled because majority of the teaching and non-teaching posts would have gone to OBC/SC/STs. The highest institutions have been, instead, filled with social forces that are known for their anti-reservation stance. Many of the Central universities and top institutions were handed over to the forces that oppose reservation in principle.
The North Indian Banias, who have taken their OBC certificate for the very same purpose of using reservation in education and employment, were consistently saying that they were against the reservation system. On many English TV channels, I myself was a witness to this drama of many Bania youths who would say that, “We are OBCs but do not want reservation”. The OBC Prime Minister, who comes from the same community, has not been able to change the mindset of those forces. Secondly, he has not initiated any new programme that benefits the OBCs. For example, the OBCs of India have been asking for two things: reservation in the private sector and reservation in Parliament and state legislatures on par with SC/STs.
After Modi became the Prime Minister, jobs have shifted to monopolistic private sector companies in a massive way. Privatisation of PSUs has been the main drive of the Modi government. This is the main reason why PSUs have not produced many jobs. The four year rule of Modi has been the most jobless period for India and most number of unemployed people are OBC/SC/STs. The upper caste youths have been getting jobs in the private sector as social connections work there. So-called merit is not at all the hallmark of the private sector’s system of recruitment.
Unless Modi initiates steps to introduce reservation in the private sector, the unemployment problem of the OBC youths will get worse. The remaining one year is crucial for him. If he takes some steps to create jobs, that will be good for the entire country, irrespective of caste and religion. But if this year also continues to be one of privatising PSUs and of distributing the few jobs created there among the upper castes of India, the OBCs have every reason to oppose Modi in the next election.
(Kancha Ilaiah is an Indian political theorist, writer and activist for Dalit rights)