the union is a coalition of estates

a. raja is being thrown out, but not the dmk. that's an important lesson for the dalitbahujans of telangana, andhra pradesh and india: geographic boundaries don't divide the social/economic elite politically. if anything, they succeed in dividing the dalitbahujans more.

mostly thinking aloud:

it's quite possible that a. raja's crimes are far less grave than his predecessors' ( arun shourie, pramod mahajan and dayanidhi maran ) misdeeds. or far more, as most other news stories seem to say. it's definitely possible that raja was not acting alone, that his masters in the dmk, and the congress, are equally involved. but in the eyes of the elite-- political, economic and social elite-- only raja is dispensable.

political democracy, as dr. ambedkar pointed out, does not ensure social or economic freedom. nominal recognition of the right to representation of the dalits through reserved constituencies has not produced a class of politicians who embody politics wedded to the ideals of dalit freedom, socially and economically. the political class (across parties) representing the brahminized classes, on the other hand, functions quite smoothly in concert with the social and economic elite of the country. from industry to big media to the intellectual classes in universities and elsewhere: the brahminized classes are overrepresented in all those areas. so, it'd have been tough to remove shourie or mahajan or even maran, because sizeable sections among the media, 'civil' society etc would have risen in support.

with the dalitbahujan presence in industry, or the media or the academia etc., being insignificant, what kind of support can dalit politicians expect from them if they devoted themselves to a broad dalit vision of transforming society? none, of course. so it is easier for politicians like a. raja, devoted to someone else's politics, to cling to power than for some more sincere dalit politicians.

so, how is it possible for a party like the dmk, representing regional elite, to hold such power in the 'national' elite as to claim exclusive rights over certain chosen portfolios such as telecom? because the 'national' elite is nothing but a collection of regional elites. so x reddy, a prominent minister in the central cabinet, could have a problem with y mudaliar, another prominent minister, but that'd never become a reddy vs mudaliar conflict. because they have common economic and social interests. and they're both an accepted part of the broad national --political, social, economic-- elite because they both are regional-- political, economic, social-- elites.

the reddies, kammas and velamas etc, are joint title-holders to the jagir, or estate, of andhra pradesh, and are thus a part of the 'national' elite. you can't divide them politically by dividing the state, as some over-optimistic dalitbahujan activists have been theorizing, because they have common economic and social interests, broadly, and those interests shall always be protected at the national and regional level by the national elite. if the dalitbahujans of andhra pradesh, or any other state in india, wish to challenge the hegemony of the regional elite, they have to avoid thinking up elaborate strategies on how to divide the existing elite, and start focussing on how to unite the divided dalitbahujans. first and foremost.


Anonymous said...

When you yourself are advocating formation of dalit bahujan interest group for wresting what you consider your fair share of the economic and political power, you naturally lose the right to criticize others (the so called Brahminical classes) for forming interest groups. You call for unity of dalit bahujans but complain when the ruling elites unite. Because they are in power, DMK also becomes brahminical, according to you. Which means BCs lose their BC character once they are in power. The very same thing can happen to dalit bahujans once they get the power. A.Raja seems to have become brahminised already once he was made such a powerful minister. Then why complain about a brahminised dalit losing his post?
Corruption, nepotism and political loot have to be addressed from a higher platform of principle than casteism. Casteism (of any caste) is as irrational as socialism.

Sridhar said...


Can't see how dalit-bahujan politicians or parties would behave differently than their brahmanized counterparts. I think the of goal of all political/ruling classes is rent-seeking given the opportunities inherent in the system. Political empowerment of dalit-bahujan is important in light of their under-representation in the much celebrated Indian democratic system and for such a democracy to be truly representative. However, it appears that at a functional level such a representative democracy is failing to deliver optimal social outcomes beyond symbolism.

kuffir said...

anon: you're confused. i'm not complaining that raja has been removed, i'm dissatisfied that the dmk and the congress are still in power.

and victims coming together against oppressors is casteism? the lower castes not coming together against oppression is casteism. people like raja breaking that unity for his own personal needs is casteism.

there are nearly 180-200 backward castes in tamil nadu-- the dmk, like any other brahminized party, is dominated by 2, 3 castes (not all the 200 castes), which reinforces the hierarchical character of the caste order. i could go on...but i wish you'd read more about certain basic facts at least before you start making 'rational' comments.

kuffir said...


it's not about who rules india, it's about how it's ruled. i don't really care if all the legislatures, the judiciary, the media and every other institution which is a part of the apparatus of the indian state, or civil society etc is filled and managed by brahminized and the so-called upper castes. and the truth is that the brahminized classes do dominate all those institutions right now in india-- so is democracy working better in india? the problem is not merely that the brahminized classes fill and dominate all those institutions. the problem is how they work and make those institutions work to reproduce the same structure of domination. inequality is both a cause of their control of those institutions and the outcome of their control.

gaddeswarup said...

You might have seen this already. This paper "Rethinking Inequality: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the Market Reform Era" by Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett, and D. Shyam Babu suggests that there is some hope. The report is summarized in Is the free market improving lives of India's Dalits?
Of course, when conditions get tougher, the little progress can be revered.

Anonymous said...

This is your blog. And I am Anonymous. So, you can call me any names, opine that i am confused, advise me to read more and come back etc. Thats fine with me.
The DMK is dominated by 2-3 castes. True. Thats what happens when you do politics based on irrational criteria like caste. It is impossible for all 200 backward castes to become CM at one time or in quick succession. The more organised, more wealthy and more vocal of them will usurp power in the name of backward castes. How can it ever be otherwise? When the basis of argument itself is so slippery, those with firmer footing will win.
If SCs come to power, will there not be fights and allegations that the malas have occupied all important position, leaving the Madigas, the Arundhateyas etc with crumbs?
I can go on...
If mere numbers are the basis of political power, the non-SCs constitute 85%. Then why complain?
As long as politicians are endowed with so much of economic power, these fights for the spoils will go on. Castes will neither get fair representation nor caste unity will change the game.
You appear to me a well meaning person.
No caste has improved its social standing, competence levels and competitive spirit by depending on state subsidies.

kuffir said...

swarup garu,

yes i'd seen the paper earlier, thanks.


people for whom caste is a burden, can forge a meaningful unity only on an anti-caste platform. this post, and many other earlier posts make that very clear.. that's a difficult road, and that's what dalit politics have tried to address, with many failures and some success, until now..so grant them some understanding of the scenarios you paint.

also grant them a broader vision that goes beyond subsidies and handouts-- it's the upper castes who live on the largesse of the state, not the lower castes. the ultimate goal of all dalitbahujan politics is structural change.

i've only pointed out the need to educate oneself on some basic facts before making sweeping statements about the 'irrationality' of certain political ideas.

call it my irrational belief in reasoned debate: i haven't moderated or deleted a single comment on this blog until now, despite all kinds of anonymous commenters talking about my 'irrationality' and lack of 'objectivity' through quite a few years. i don't have to resort to name-calling to cut off debate on caste. it's those who cling to it who object to caste being discussed.

Anonymous said...

Caste is never a burden if one has the will to shake it off on issues that matter. A brahmin pujari is often ridiculed, a brahmin is an outcast in BC dominated politics of Chennai, any non SC is at God's mercy in Maya's UP.....the list goes on.
This is happening because its not freedom from oppression that castes are demanding. They are demanding freedom to oppress the 'other' castes.
In the number games of democracy, every caste will have its day one day for some period. The wheel rotates.
In stead of demanding protection of fundamental and natural rights, castes are intent on cutting each other's throats. Politicians enjoy this and pit one caste against the other. In the long run, every politician gets to power some time or the other and squeezes the tits of the state till it bleeds.
We educated people also walk into these traps carrying all our angst and indignation...

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