Political analysts still remember how VP Singh used the ‘Mandal’ concept (favoring the lower castes in India) as a political weapon for power in 1989. They then predicted that it would drastically end the ‘saffron surge’ guided by the Sangh Parivar and the right-wing politicians. The Indian National Congress, following Singh’s theory, pushed the anti-BJP movement further, in a bid to curb Advani’s ‘Kamandal’ (the Hindu political crusade of the 1990s). Unfortunately for them, neither Congress nor Singh could accomplish much from the so-called masterstroke. It may be because they used it merely as a slogan for their vote banks, rather than using it to introduce social empowerment.
BJP candidate Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s election as the former prime minister of India turned out to be a turning point for BJP. The party has never looked back since then. Recently, it gained more strength under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He transformed ‘Mandalization’ into a calculative political initiative, focused on social empowerment.
For the first time in Indian history, both the President and the Prime Minister are NDA candidates having strong connections with the RSS. On an interesting note, the Prime Minister belongs to the OBC community whereas the newly elected President Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit. Not to mention, the party has nominated former union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu as the Vice President candidate. Not many know Venkaiah Naidu hails from a poor farmer family belonging to the OBC community.
By doing this, the party has successfully overcome the ‘Mandal politics’ that once threatened to divide Indians in the name of casteism. The newly-elected president Ram Nath Kovind attests this theory. Being a Dalit candidate from Uttar Pradesh, the former governor of Bihar has received support from non-NDA politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) and Nitish Kumar (JDU). As a governor, Kovind took unbiased decisions, which is why he won the support of JDU Supremo Nitish Kumar.
Following Kovind’s nomination, the Congress was forced to field Meira Kumar, the former Lok Sabha Speaker, as its ‘Dalit’ presidential candidate. However, their decision had electoral motives. Contrary to this, NDA put forth a good example in social engineering by stressing on the empowerment of all castes. In an attempt to dethrone Congress, BJP has successfully combined Mandal with Kamandal (casteism with social empowerment) to consolidate their position.
The overwhelming support Kovind got from independent/ regional parties and different states of India hints at their increased acceptability. It highlights the growing power of BJP nationwide, with the inversion of political equations. Eying development, the party aims at fulfilling their long-term political goals and expanding its footprints all across the nation, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.