This is a guest post by Mahmood Kooria
We are publishing an English translation of an important interview of the intellectual and academic Kancha Ilaiah, conducted by Mahmood Kooria for the Malayalam weekly Mathrubhumi. While what I see as Professor Ilaiah’s underestimation and perhaps misreading of the historic role of the Communists in Indian politics leaves me severely uncomfortable, especially when he exonerates the right from commensurate charges of elitism, his framing of Hindustva and Modi’s appeal within the great stream of caste in the subcontinent is brilliant and thought-provoking, as always.
Kooria conducted the interview as well as translated it in to English. His introduction is as follows, “At a time when there was no any such discussion, in 2002 Professor Kancha Ilaiah predicted that Narendra Modi will be the prime-ministerial candidate of Baratiya Janata Party. It has come true and now Modi is in the office. At this point, I talked with him at Moulana Azad Urdu University Hyderabad where he chairs the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy. In the conversation, he talked about the future of Modi government and he predicted that a civil war is going to break out in India if Modi does not cater the needs of backward classes. A Malayalam-version of this interview was published in the Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly (August 24, 2014).”
Mahmood Kooria: Ten years ago you wrote that Modi will be the prime ministerial candidate of BJP. What would be your response as your prediction has come true?
Kancha Ilaiah: Well, at that time I was predicting that based on the Left parties’ indifference to understand the caste question. The caste question is not been seriously taken by the Left parties. And, after Mandal, the BJP and the RSS wings started looking at caste-question seriously because when Babari Masjid was demolished they mobilized a lot of backward classes. Though they oppose Mandal reservation, they wanted the backward classes to be part of the Hindu religion. Around 1994, a non-Brahmin called Rajju Bhaiya became the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. Then he recruited a large number of backward classes, large number of youth, and he promoted the people like Narendra Modi, Uma Bharati at that time. Earlier, the first backward-class chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was a BJP man: Kalyan Sing. He was the chief minister in 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished.
The Sangh Pariwar was responding to the backward class demands more. But the Left or the Congress was not responding to the OBCs. The Congress was responding to the Dalits and Muslims. There was upper caste all the time on the top. So, when Narendra Modi became the chief minister and this whole atmosphere was created, I was writing a column in The Hindu. I thought that this seems to be cause/course of India, since the Hindu religion is surviving because of the backward classes. It is inevitable for the Hindutva organizations that they will have to project an OBC for the prime-ministership. But there was resistance from within itself. It is not that the Brahmins have given up the principle of varna-dharma. After that article came and of course after my writing Why I am not a Hindu itself, the backward classes even within RSS seemed to use that material for their advantage. The communists did not use or recognize it. The question of labour and caste which I have been consistently raising, which was also part of their theory, they did not care about. So the Communist Party remained tightly under the control of upper castes.
Continue reading A civil-war is on the doorstep of India: Interview with Kancha Ilaiah by Mahmood Kooria