India: General Elections 2009 and the Neoliberal Consensus

by Ravi Kumar



















  1. I am grateful to the editorial committee for comments on the article.
  2. BSP -- It is the political party which emerged as a representative of the Dalits (or the castes which have been at he lowest rung of the caste hierarchy) claiming to be imbued with the ideas of Bhim Rao Ambedkar. It has argued for social justice for these sections and believes that the repressive so-called upper castes have been responsible for the plight of the Dalits. However, they emerged victorious in elections in Uttar Pradesh and had a successful alliance with the so-called upper castes. Many people see it as the death of social justice agenda of such political formations.
  3. It is a political formation active primarily in the province of Bihar and currently holds the political power in Bihar with the aid of Bhartiya Jananta Party. JD (U) is an offshoot of the Janata Dal, a political formation that came into being around late 1980s offering an alternative to the Congress regime and came to limelight with the formation of a non-Congress government in 1989 with the support of the Left and the right wing Bhartiya Janata Party. Later Janata Dal disintegrated, and many regional parties emerged out of it. Most of these new regional parties championed the cause of Backward castes.
  4. These are piecemeal programs run by the State in partnership with non-State actors. This has allowed the State to absolve itself of its responsibilities.
  5. The frontal politics here refers to the nature of politics that became the order of the day after 1989 when coalitions were formed on certain temporary, momentous grounds such as in 1989 Left and the Right wing supported National Front government to keep Congress Party out of power and then in 2004 Left supported Congress Party to keep Right wing out of power. The formation of such fronts has been justified on grounds that "it is important to defeat the more dangerous enemy." However, whatever the argument be, it is the working class politics that has suffered. Even when the governments supported by the Left have been in power they could not have been more nakedly neoliberal.
  6. When one talks of land reforms in an Indian context it differed from state to state. In case of West Bengal where, in fact, it brought CPI(M) to power, it meant land distribution. A ceiling was fixed beyond which a landowner cannot own land and the surplus land was distributed among the landless and also the right of the share-croppers was enforced on land because s/he was the actual tiller of the land.
  7. In the traditional varna or caste hierarchy the Kshatriyas were the warriors or the rulers who were provided intellectual support by the Brahmanas. It was always the alliance of these castes that led to the sustenance of the caste system in India. Many Marxist historians such as D.D. Kosambi, R. S. Sharma, or Irfan Habib have shown how caste was an instrument of economic exploitation as well, for instance an extra-coercive means to exploit the landless and poor who belonged to the so-called lower castes. The Backward castes of today come from the traditional Vaishya and Shudra category of varnas, who were the lower castes.
  8. Janeu is a sacred thread worn by the dwija or twice born castes, which denotes their higher status in the caste hierarchy. It was largely the prerogative of the Kshatriyas and the Brahamanas.
  9. After ten years of rule Laloo Yadav had to resign because of a corruption case, and he made his wife Rabri Devi the Chief Minister for the next five years. Due to this it is mentioned as Laloo-Rabri.