Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Why Do Poor Voters Choose a Pro-Rich Party in India?

in partnership with the South Asia Center & Dept. of South Asian Studies

Christophe Jaffrelot
Professor of South Asian Politics and History, Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po (Paris); Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology, King's India Institute (London); Research Director, CNRS
Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 12:00
A Virtual CASI Seminar via Zoom — 12 noon EST | 10:30pm IST

(English captions & Hindi subtitles available)

About the Seminar:
The tax policy of NDA II is revealing of its desire to spare some of the better off tax payers, whereas its welfare programs are not as redistribution-oriented as those of the UPA. Still, in 2019, a large number of poor voters have opted for the BJP. While this state of things can be explained by many factors (including the impact of social work and identity politics), in this seminar, Prof. Jaffrelot will focus on the role of caste to suggest that the BJP has attracted the jatis of SCs and OBCs, which have not benefited very much from reservations and which happen to be the poorest.

About the Speaker:
Christophe Jaffrelot is a political scientist specialising in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. He is a Professor of South Asian politics and history the Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po (Paris), a Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute (London), and a Research Director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Prof. Jaffrelot’s publications on India cover aspects of Indian nationalism and democracy, Hindu nationalism, caste mobilization in politics, and ethnic conflicts. Most recently, he is the author of Modi's India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy (2021). His prior publications include Saffron Modernity in India: Narendra Modi and his Experiment with Gujarat (2015), Religion, Caste, and Politics in India (2011), and many other co-authored and edited volumes. He is the Senior Editor of the Sciences Po book series, Comparative Politics and International Relations published by C. Hurst & Co. He has been the Editor-in-Chief of Critique Internationale and serves on the editorial boards of Nations and Nationalism and International Political Sociology. He is also on the editorial board of The Online Encyclopaedia of Mass Violence. Prof. Jaffrelot's current research deals with the sociology of the Indian political personnel (including the Members of Parliament and the Members of the Legislative Assemblies), the Dargahs of Ajmer, India-Pakistan relations, the political history of Gujarat (from the point of view of the relations between politicians and businessmen in particular), and populist politics with special reference to the “Modi phenomenon.”


Tariq Thachil:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to another addition of CASI, the Center for the Advanced Study of India, here at the University of Pennsylvania's weekly seminar series on Thursdays. Just before I introduce today's event and speaker, a quick plug for next week's talk. Which will be by Ambassador Shyam Saran, who is the 26th foreign secretary of India, speaking on the timely topic of India-China relations. His talk is Overlapping Peripheries: How Will India and China Navigate the Asian Century? And that will be one of our Khemka Distinguished Lectures for the year. In partnership with the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, and Perry World House here at University of Pennsylvania. And so please do tune in, that will be at the special time of 10:00 AM east coast time in the US and 8:30 PM in India.

Delighted today to be able to virtually host at CASI Christophe Jaffrelot, who is the Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute. And also the the Research Lead for the Global Institutes, King’s College London. Christophe teaches South Asian politics and history, including at Sciences Po in Paris, and is a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And he was the director of CERI at Sciences Po between 2000 and 2008. Many of you will be familiar with his regular commentary on both Indian and Pakistani politics in France, the UK, North America, and in India. Where he writes a regular column for The Indian Express. Christophe writes books with the speed that I write emails, so I'm not going to list his many books here, let alone his articles.

But for today's talk, I thought it would be good to just briefly draw your attention to four of his books. Actually starting with one that is not recent, but a book that first brought his work to my attention. And that is The Hindu Nationalist Movement, which was published in 1993, and then in English in '96 by Columbia University Press here in the US. And that was really a landmark work for many scholars, including myself. And an invaluable resource and reference for understanding the origins and early development of the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party. And really was invaluable for many of us who later worked on the BJP. Christophe also, in 2003, another landmark work was India's Silent Revolution, which analyzed the rising political assertiveness of disadvantaged castes in India. What he termed a democratization through caste, and through caste politics. That also launched a research agenda on disadvantaged caste politics across North India.

Two recent books to draw your attention to. The first was one that was published under the title India's First Dictatorship, on the emergency under Indira Gandhi, which was co-authored with Pratinav Anil and published in December of 2020 by Hurst & Co. And then most recently Modi's India, which was published by Princeton University Press, I have a copy here, here in the US, and also by Westland in India. Which as many of you was sadly and abruptly shut down earlier this year. So the book will be difficult to obtain in India, but still is available here in the US and elsewhere. The book traces the evolution of the BJP and Hindu nationalism, both as ideology and political strategy. And particularly it's transformation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and I just referenced that since it bears on the topic of his talk today. Which, again, is on something that is near and dear to my own heart. Trying to understand why a party that is oriented at least programmatically to India's relatively privileged and wealthy, often draws support from its less advantaged citizens.

And so with that, I'm going to turn it over to you. Christophe will speak for the first half of our hour together, and then we'll open it up to Q and A. Just a reminder in case you don't come to these events regularly, please enter your questions in the chat box via direct message to, Tariq, Tariq Thachil. We'll enable the chat about 10 or 15 minutes in, and then I will call on you to ask your question to Christophe. And please keep your questions short and to the point so that we can get to as many as possible. Christophe, thanks so much, and over to you.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Thank you, Tariq. Thank you very much for the invitation. And I'm so happy to be part of CASI, the place you are running in such a great manner. Congratulations. So I'm going to share my screen for presenting my response to this question. That is a question, by the way, we can ask about other countries, including the US, in fact. And I think a comparison could be very, very interesting. I will not enter into a comparison, I will try to address this question, "Why do poor people, poor voters support a pro-rich party in India?" And this party, of course, is BJP. Well, of course, the first thing to do for our explaining to this question is to show that BJP is pro-rich, and by definition anti-poor.

And I will do that in the first part of my presentation by supporting this claim on some evidence. And then in the second part, I will try to explain, why are poor voters supporting BJP in the 2019 elections? I will not go beyond the 2019 elections. But this is really a study on what happened in the first term of Modi, and why could he be reelected after policies which were rather anti-poor and pro-rich. Well, the first move that was clearly not pro-poor was the way the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA was targeted by Modi in parliament itself. And I'm sure you all remember that he said, "Acumen has told me to keep it alive as a monument to your failure... " And the congress MPs were targeted. "... since independence. After 60 years, you are still making people dig holes." Well, when you know how helpful NREGA has been for fighting poverty during the decade, at least the second term of Manmohan Singh. This is, of course, rather ironical.

It kept it alive, but oddly, and in fact, the Supreme Court of India was obliged to intervene in May 2016 to compel the government to disperse the funds earmarked for NREGA. The money was not spent. And in fact, when you compare the number of beneficiaries of NREGA who were paid 15 days after they had worked, and that was what was stipulated in the law, you find that the percentage declined to 28% in 2014, 2015. After the Supreme Court intervened, it increased to 40%, but it fell back. It fell back down again to 28% in 2017. And the number of people who worked 100 days per year, that was what the NREGA was about, fell from 470,000 in 2013, '14 to 250,000 in 2014, '15, and only 170,000 in 2015, '16. There was a clear reduction of the scope of this program, of this scheme.

Similarly, and this is something we are all familiar with because of the farmers' movement, especially. In spite of the fact that Narendra Modi had promised farmers during his 2014 campaign, that the state would now buy their products on agricultural markets at 1.5 times production cost. In spite of this promise, well, calculating the cost was never specified. And in fact, minimum support prices, MSPs proved to be very low. And when they increased, when the market prices rose, the government almost systematically tried to bring them back down by importing some of the commodities in question. Or by preventing farmers from exporting in order to maintain an abundant supply. Why? Because the people BJP represented was primarily urban. And this is something the CSDS data showed very clearly in 2014, BJP had won 42% of the votes in urban constituencies and only 30% of the vote in rural constituencies. This is one of the reasons why NREGA was also targeted to prevent farm workers' wages from increasing. And that's also why they kept the commodity prices as low as possible. This is what Ashok Gulati calls an urban consumer bias, and that was not clearly very good for the rural poor.

So the result is that in 2019, an NSO survey leaked and told us that the money spent as an average every month by an Indian had fallen by 3.7% between 20... Oh, sorry, 2011-2012 and 2017-2018. We had never seen such a drop in consumption in real terms since '72-'73 when the NSO service started. And that was due, again, to the fact that you had more poor people in rural India, plus 8.8 person in Indian villages. On the contrary, and this is something very well known, we saw the rich becoming richer. There is, in particular, a very interesting list, not so well known. I do recommend this list by the Wealth Hurun India Rich List, that identifies 953 rich Indian families, the richest Indian families.

And it gives, this list, figures that show that their fortune represented more than 26% of the country's GDP. Which meant, incidentally, that a tax rate of 4% on these families would represent 1% of India's GDP, which is just formidable. According to Credit Suisse, that you cannot accuse of being a leftist bank, the number of dollar millionaires in India has jumped from 34,000 in 2000 to 759,000 in 2019. In fact, this is the country where the number of millionaires in dollars has increased the most. Why? Well, largely because [inaudible 00:12:34] 2015, the Modi government lowered the corporate tax. And I'm sure you are all aware of the fact that for existing companies it was reduced from 30 to 22%. For the manufacturing firms incorporated after October 1st, 2019. And it was reduced from 25 to 15% for those who were to start operations before March 31st, 2023. This is the biggest reduction in 28 years.

And that was one of the reasons why you saw the rich becoming richer. The wealth tax abolition was another explanation for this process, phenomenon. And the consequence of this is that to [inaudible 00:13:33] with the reduction of direct taxes, the Modi government has increased indirect taxes in a big way. And we all know that indirect taxes are the most unfair ones because, of course, they affect everyone irrespective of their income. So taxes on alcohol, on petroleum products increased in a big way, and India has one of the highest taxation rates on fuel in the world today. And that's clearly something that affects the poor. The share of indirect taxes reached 50% before 2019. It was only 44% of the total taxes during UPA II, and it was only 39% [inaudible 00:14:22] under UPA I. Clearly, this is the first point I wanted to make, but that's something that is rather well known, we have a kind of pro-rich and anti-poor policy. That makes even more complicated the question, "Why do the poor vote for a party that is so blatantly not in their interest?"

Because the poor do vote for the BJP. And that's what the 2019 elections showed, the National Election Survey of CSDS showed that in 2019, the percentage of poor voters voting for BJP jumped from 24% to 36%. Not far from the average, the national average was 37.5%. And if you look at the state level, and I think it's not uninteresting to look at UP, because UP is voting at the moment. It's even more dramatic, in a way. 50% of the poor voted for BJP in this state, against 32%, much less five years [inaudible 00:15:49]. The poor have been attracted by BJP during these five years at the [inaudible 00:15:55] level, and more especially in the Hindi Belt, including Uttar Pradesh. Why?

Well, I can't, because I don't have the time to review all the explanations. So I will list a couple of them and focus on the third one. Well, of course, national populism is an explanation. And in fact, national populism is designed to retain social hierarchies, social status quo by polarizing. Using identity politics based on religion, [inaudible 00:16:39] based on ethnicity. And this is something you see all over the world, the rich support populists precisely because they can defuse social tensions by resorting to identity politics, and especially in the case of India, to a form of religiosity. So that's a very important dimension that needs to be factored in here.

There is another explanation that is not on that slide, but that needs to be mentioned here. And that is what I've called social work, welfarist strategy. Something, of course, Tariq studied in great detail in his [inaudible 00:17:30] turned into a book. The way these movements of the [inaudible 00:17:36] were so good to replace the state in some places, including [inaudible 00:17:42]. And the [inaudible 00:17:43] was one of the case studies in Tariq's book. They do it with the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram among tribals. They do it in slums with [inaudible 00:17:58]. I saw what they did in the Agra slums in many years ago. You have free education, free health services, real social work. And plus, of course, symbolic attitudes like, well, sharing food, [inaudible 00:18:19] food, [inaudible 00:18:20] with the poor. And that is clearly the third explanation, because that pertains to Sanskritization. And we have a capacity of the [inaudible 00:18:36] to attract the poor in some places when they belong to lower caste in particular, that is still effective. And that we can call the Sanskritization effect.

I would focus on two more new developments. And one is what I call in my book politics of dignity. Modi could claim that he was speaking for the poor, but he spoke for the poor in a very different manner compared to Manmohan Singh's policies and discourse on poverty. Modi clearly claimed that he was one of them. That he came from a poor family, and that he would do as much as he could to serve the poorest of the poor. [inaudible 00:19:34] this is the formula he used in his first address to the Lok Sabha just after being elected prime minister. This rhetoric is a very important one, we should not take it lightly. In fact, I've just completed a research with one of my colleagues, Jean-Thomas Martelli, on Mann Ki Baat. This monthly radio program is called Mann Ki Baat, words from the earth, because Modi speaks to the people, and mostly to the poor. And that's why it's on radio, because the radio is one of the media the poor have access to more easily.

And when you look at these discourses, and we have compiled millions of words and processed them, it's all about, "I am listening to the poor and I am doing what the poor ask for, need in concrete terms." So it's a politics of recognition, that's why I call it politics of dignity also, is accessible to the poor, is listening to the poor. And that has found expression in policies also, programs, schemes. I'll have no time to review them in detail, but Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Jan Dhan Yojana, and the Ujjwala Yojana are all schemes which were not very costly. And they did not consist in giving money to the poor, but they consisted in rather significant symbolic actions recognizing the dignity of the poor, or trying to improve the dignity of the poor. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan resulted in the making of latrines, and the poor were supposed... Especially poor women, but not only them, were, of course, supposed to appreciate this attention.

Jan Dhan Yojana you're not giving money to the poor, you're giving a bank account and a plastic card, and that's the beginning of a recognition as well. Ujjwala Yojana, a gas cylinder, you don't give the refill. And usually the poor cannot refill this gas cylinder, but they got one, and with the photograph of Narendra Modi on it. In fact, the photograph from Narendra Modi was on everything with these programs. So I'm not saying that this is not the redistribution of wealth, it is partly redistributive. But nothing compared to NREGA, nothing compared to the kind of money that was spent by the previous government. So it's a new kind of welfarist strategy that is much more based on recognition, self esteem, self respect. And that's why I call it politics of dignity.

So that's one of the reasons why the poor might have voted for BJP in 2019. But the most important one for me is the last one, and I'll spend the time I still have on this one. And it has to do with caste, the caste factor needs to be factored in. The variable that is caste needs to be factored in. Because when we say the poor voted for BJP, well, most of these poor were poor Dalits. Well, the percentage of Dalits, of Scheduled Caste voting for BJP in 2019 is unprecedented, more than one third of them. It jumped from one fourth to one third, and mostly poor Dalits. Now all these data come from the CSDS, and they are all in the [inaudible 00:23:49]. So you have the question, why do poor Dalits support BJP? Well, the main reason is that Dalits do not form a block. You have to open this, "Black box." made of different Dalit jatis.

And among these Dalit jatis, some of them benefited from reservations more than others. Would corner reservations in the bureaucracy, in the public sector, in the education system. Those who did not benefit were resentful of those who did benefit. In Uttar Pradesh, clearly Jatavs have benefited from these reservations more than Khatiks, Balmikis, [inaudible 00:25:07], Pasis, Paswans, so many others. And BJP was very well aware of this resentment of the poor Dalits vis-à-vis the not so poor Dalits. And they were in a position to exploit this resentment even more because of the role of BSP. BSP was assimilated, associated with Jatavs. So at the time of elections, when BSP continued to give tickets to Jatavs, to nominate Jatavs in large numbers, on the contrary, BJP nominated non-Dalits, Pasis, other SCs. And certainly BSP and SP, the coalition got 75% of the Jatav vote in 2015, but only 42% of the non-Jatavs who supported BJP in large numbers and who were the poor Dalits.

So when you make this claim, and that's something that we are working on with [inaudible 00:26:28] in particular. You need to go one step further and say, "Okay, how do we know that Jatavs are really the dominant Dalits?" Because this is a very important claim that we make. Well, for that you have to do two things. You have to look at the social profile of the Dalit politicians. And this social profile is very interesting. This is something we studied with Gilles Verniers at the TCPD. We have compiled the social profile of MLAs and MPs. And it was not so difficult to show that, especially when BSP does well, Jatavs are very much dominant among the MLAs in Uttar Pradesh. This is only Uttar Pradesh. 55, sorry, 53.4% of the Dalit MLAs in 2007, when BSP was in the majority, compared to Khatiks and [inaudible 00:27:46] Pasis.

You compare BJP on the one hand, BSP on the other hand, you see that clearly Jatavs were not represented among the BJP, only 28%, as much as on the BSP side, 69.5%. 80% in 2012, 70% in 2017. BSP is a Jatav party. You want to beat BSP, you appoint non-Jatav candidates in a reserve seat. You'll get the non-Jatav Dalit vote and you'll get the non-Dalit vote at large. So that's one reason why the poor Dalits, who are mostly non-Jatavs, give such a percentage of poor voters supporting BJP. Another very interesting data coming from the India Human Development Survey shows that Chamars... They don't say Jatavs, but of course, Chamars prefer to be called Jatavs... Are five time more represented among graduates than Pasis. They have benefited from reservations in the university system more than others. And last but at least, in terms of occupation, they have the salaried jobs, 10% against 6.6% of Pasis. More than 10% of Chamars have a salaried job, mostly in the public sector, against 6.6% among the Pasis.

What is the conclusion you can draw from that? You can draw from that that there is a paradox in reservations. Reservations have divided Dalits by making some of the jatis dominant, more affluent. And as a result, the others poor, less affluent, and resentful. And BJP was an adapt at tapping this resentment. And by nominating candidates coming from that side, they add the vote of the poor, because these people were more poor than the Jatavs. This is one of the reasons why the poor voted for BJP. They voted for BJP because they voted against BSP. They voted against BSP, they voted against Jatavs. And there is a kind of artifact, caste is a kind of artifact that you need to factor in if you want to understand why poor people voted for BJP.

Now, and I end with this, there is a limit to these kind of politics. You could see recently, non-Jatav Dalits leaving BJP and joining SP, that was last month only, because they did not get anything from BJP. So what was true in 2019 may not be true in 2022 so clearly at the state election level. And we'll see very soon whether Dalits could be more united against BJP at the time of UP elections. I would like just to conclude by saying that what I've just said about Dalits is also true about OBCs. And if you have [inaudible 00:32:00] OBCs voting for BJP, it's also largely because the Yadavs have cornered reservations in such a manner that... And they have dominated in the Hindi Belt politics for so many years that the non-Yadav OBCs, including Kurmis, including [inaudible 00:32:27], so many others, could be easily attracted by BJP.

And therefore the kind of logic that you can find in the fact that poor Dalits vote for BJP can be repeated in the case of some small OBC caste groups. Which sided with BJP because they were not happy with the way SP or RJD in Bihar claimed to represent OBCs at large. So that's one more reason to say that caste does play a big role in Indian politics, and that BJP has tried to circumvent caste by using, of course, religion and identity politics in [inaudible 00:33:20]. But it is probably back to caste, and the fact that it has strategically nominated non-Jatavs and non-Yadavs showed that at the local level, the [inaudible 00:33:32] of caste has always been one of their resources. And I stop there. Thank you.

Tariq Thachil:

Thanks so much, Christophe, for a rich talk, and we already have several questions. I never do this, but I'm just going to take the prerogative to ask a initial couple of questions, just given the topic. And a couple of quick thoughts to get us started, and then I'll get to the list. So just one question on the caste side, and one question on the material politics side of it. So on the caste equation that you talk about, and this idea of a different form of social engineering, right? Thinking of the specifics of jatis who are non-Jatav jatis within the UP context and similar dynamics elsewhere. What struck me with that argument, and I've seen that argument gain a lot of currency in the analyses of the ongoing UP elections. Is that this is not new to the BJP's thinking even specifically with Dalits.

I remember talking to Bangaru Laxman, who you know is the first... For those who don't, the first Dalit BJP national party president, back in 2008. And him talking about how his own selection was motivated by the fact that he was a non-Jatav Dalit. That Rajnath Singh, who was the party's president in UP in 2007 was already trying to think about jati-wise distinctions within the Dalit community, at least in UP, to try and take advantage of this. So my question is, why is it working now? And why did it not work then? If this is something they've been paying attention to, is it that the BSP hadn't had its chance at that point? And that the disaffection with the BSP needed to set in among non-Jatav Dalits, or are there other dynamics at play? Because I think people are right to point to the importance of that, but sometimes overstate how new that strategy is. I don't think the BJP, or any party for that matter, has suddenly become aware of the possibility of the strategy.

And then on the material politics side, there's been a lot of discussion of what... I think it was Arvind Subramanian called the new welfarism of the BJP with this kind of public provision of private goods. And I guess my question is, it seems like your interpretation was that there's not actually that much there. Not that these things, I think their interpretation was that these are actually quite important material goods. Yes, it's not this larger form of redistribution, but they meet very immediate needs of people. But there's been a debate about that, as you know, about how much utilization of these goods is actually there, et cetera. But I didn't have a sense of whether you were saying there are real material benefits being offered, but that's not what's driving the support, or that you actually don't see this as that material at all. So just those two questions quickly, and then I'll get to the list.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Thank you, these are excellent questions, Tariq. Yes, I think that for the first, you've got part of the response yourself. That is you have to wait for BSP to be in office for seeing how far this pro-Jatav party was behaving. I think something we saw similarly, when BSP was in office, and then we spoke about Yadavization of the state, [inaudible 00:37:06]. So the kind of [inaudible 00:37:08], caste-based [inaudible 00:37:10] we saw at work when they were in the government after 2007 for BSP, and then five years later for SP, I think was a factor. Another factor, and it's very important for me to repeat that I'm looking at this variable as one of many others. I have four explanations for explaining why the poor voted for BJP. I dwelled on the last one on caste, but I don't want to [inaudible 00:37:51] the others. And the Sanskritization dimension gained momentum clearly in the framework of the campaign of Narendra Modi in 2014, and then in 2019.

The movement for the temple, the targeting of Muslims, all this was part of an attempt at making a front, a Hindu front, and therefore that's another very important new, recent dimension. So I would [inaudible 00:38:31] explanation for saying why it's more effective now than in the past. On the new welfarism, I think we have to, indeed, look at both. Yes, there are some real material benefits undoubtedly, but nothing compared to the kind of money that was spent before. No, remember, NREGA was 0.7% of the GDP of India. No, we have not reached these kind of levels with Swachh Bharat, with Ujjwala Yojana, or Jan Dhan Yojana. But what makes these programs so effective, first of all, more money dispersed just before the elections. And that's something we saw with the Kisan plan as well, just before the elections.

Secondly, it was much more personalized. It was associated with the Pradhan Mantri, it was always in the name of the prime minister. And [inaudible 00:39:40] has a very interesting piece showing how this is a welfarist strategy that is very personalized. And last but not least, this is what I [inaudible 00:39:52], this is very much based on a sense of recognition of the poor. And this is what I call politics of dignity, by the way. When [inaudible 00:40:06] speaks about [inaudible 00:40:07] politics, he says something very similar, "Yes, he thinks about it. He thinks about us, he thinks about the poor. We may not get something now, we'll get it. We'll get something from him." So that's a new psychological dimension that needs to be also factored. So less money dispersed, the poor are more poor, but this is compensated by [inaudible 00:40:36] dimension of this new form of welfarism.

Tariq Thachil:

Okay. Let's actually stick on that theme for a couple of questions that might build on that line, and then we'll circle back to a couple others. The first is from Bhumi. Bhumi do you want to ask a question to Christophe? I think you're muted, Bhumi. [crosstalk 00:40:57].

Bhumi Purohit:

Sorry. Hi, thank you for presenting. This was a great talk and I'm excited about the book. I'm just wondering, in the beginning, you give us some very good explanations for why the policies promoted by the BJP are pro-rich. But I'm wondering if you have any survey data or interview data to show that citizens actually perceive the BJP to be a pro-rich party. Because that could be one basic explanation that you could negate through such data.

Christophe Jaffrelot:


Tariq Thachil:

And before you answer that, Christophe, I'm just going to also ask Dr. Nancy Pathak to ask her question. It's just broadly on this economic angle as well. So Dr. Pathak, could you ask your question?

Nancy Pathak:

Yeah, thank you. First of all, thank you so much for this lovely presentation. Adding onto that, my question was, despite the fact that a huge amount of spending on the welfare schemes have been cut down, but at the same time, the welfare scheme amount has been directed towards direct benefit transfer. Which is, in a way, also [inaudible 00:42:05] dignity to the poor by removing the middlemen and the bureaucrats from between the government and the poor. So probably that has had some benefits, and it has penetrated better. I mean, do you think that is a factor because of which the poor have started moving towards BJP?

Tariq Thachil:

Christophe, go ahead and respond to both of those, and then we'll take the next [crosstalk 00:42:31].

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Yeah, certainly. I'll begin with the second one. This direct transfer business had started before. In fact, when you look at the trajectory of Aadhaar, Aadhaar was precisely supported by the Manmohan Singh government as early as 2009, 2010 for direct transfer to take place. What is new there is the fact that Manmohan Singh let state governments get some credit for that. And with Modi, you see something very new, a complex centralization of the welfare schemes. They are in his name, always. This is something [inaudible 00:43:24] who works on [inaudible 00:43:26] shows very explicitly. The process is the same, but the packaging is different. So you may imagine that Narendra Modi could benefit from a direct transfer system that was there before, but that was not in his name. That was in the name of state governments, belonging to sometimes congress governments, but sometimes opposition governments. Bhumi, sorry, can you repeat your question? I'm really sorry, I did not take it down and now I forget.

Bhumi Purohit:

No problem. So I'm wondering if you have any evidence showing us whether citizens actually perceive the BJP to be an anti-poor or pro-rich party. Because to analysts who are studying policy, that might be evident, but I'm wondering if citizens think of the party in such manners.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Well, I don't think we have surveys making this... Well, supporting any evidence. What we can show at [inaudible 00:44:48], and I'm working these days on Gujarat. I'm [inaudible 00:44:52] a book on Modi's Gujarat now. What I find very interesting there is the way you see a class-based support made of middle class, urban middle-class people at the core group. And what he called himself a neo-middle class, so an emerging middle class. The idea of the neo-middle class crystallized in 2012. 2012, for the state elections of Gujarat, Modi says, "I am going to help the neo-middle class." What is this group? This group is made of those who have migrated from the village, who have a kind of informal job. Jobs are not good in Gujarat, not very stable, but you can get something as a driver, as a... Well, [inaudible 00:45:56] caretaker.

So you commute, or at least you migrate to the city, you become part of the urban context, so to speak. And you support BJP at that time. There is a fascinating survey. This is a survey. There is a fascinating survey of the 2012 election in Gujarat showing that the same caste group, the Kolis, the largest OBC group, vote for congress in the village, vote for BJP in the city. And this is the class element. So you can say that certainly the transformation of the economy, I mean, the double-digit growth rate of Gujarat for 10 years has created a new class. An emerging, aspiring class of former rural people who have now joined the Gujarati dream of modernization, of urbanization. And they support BJP and their support Modi at the same time. So yes, we could certainly consider that there is a class element in the rise of BJP and Modi in Gujarat in the first place. Interestingly, nobody speaks about the neo-middle class anymore, because that's over. All these people are back to poverty, most of them.

Tariq Thachil:

We have a couple of questions on the sustainability of this strategy. So the first is from Vivek. Vivek, would you like to ask your question?

Vivek Bammi:

Sure, thanks. Thanks for a great talk, Christophe. So my question was that the strategy that you outlined from the BJP to get the support of the poorer classes or poorer castes. Is that sustainable given the economic realities which have emerged in the last two or three years? Particularly post-pandemic with the growing unemployment lowering economic standards, which you just alluded to as well. So will economic realities, in fact, trump any kind of identity politics which you said earlier might have been some of the factors driving the lower groups towards the BJP?

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Yeah. Well, this is exactly why the UP elections are so interesting and so important. Because if, in spite of all what you said, Yogi Adityanath can be reelected with a majority, we will have some response to your questions. Yes, there is a sustainability due to, you can say adherence to a new identity, a new Hindu ant-Muslim anti-minorities identity. And that these emotions, sustained by, supported by the building of the Ayodhya temple, supported by so many festivals in so many places. And oppression of the Muslims who cannot have the same festival, who cannot have the same presence on the public scene. That may be sufficient, that may be a new political culture. But we are not yet there, and it will be very important to see whether the elections in UP bring the Bhagidari party back in office, with a caveat. For these tests to be really the acid test, elections have to be free and fair. Sufficiently free and fair [inaudible 00:49:54].

Tariq Thachil:

I think Shubhayan had a question on these lines, but pertaining the middle class. So Shubhayan, do you want to ask your question?


Hi, yeah. Thank you for taking my question. So my question draws from the previous one. That how long before the middle class, particularly the Hindu middle class, revolt electorally over issues of high taxation, inflation, falling income levels, and this rising sense of losing out while the rich reaps reward? So is the middle class basically beholden to this Moditva philosophy? That is one of my question, and I have another small question. Is the reason why the BJP fails electorally in Southern states except Karnataka, is because of relatively better standards of living there and different caste politics down south? So these are my two questions, thank you.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Now these are very good questions. When you look at the motivations of the middle class for supporting BJP, certainly the kind of income you get matters a lot. But there are other variables that need to be factored. For instance, BJP is a party that is not implementing caste-based reservations the way they used to be implemented. And that is something the middle class, the upper-caste middle class are very happy with, dilution of reservations. Look, the creation of a quarter of 10% for the upper caste just before the 2009 elections, you cannot imagine the impact that made. At last, the poor upper-caste people were recognized as deserving something. When you think about the anti [inaudible 00:51:54] sentiments, which are so deep rooted, which are so deep rooted, why do they vote BJP in the first place in the '90s? To contain [Munda 00:52:04], to resist Munda.

And after so many years, at long last, reservations are not for the low-caste only, but also for the upper class. So that's one. Secondly, privatization. This government is privatizing more than any other government in the world historically, at a very high speed. Privatization means, again, less reservations, because where are the jobs? They vanish, they shrink. And on the contrary, the private sector is supposed to, well, somewhat fulfill the values of merit, the values the middle class is supporting [inaudible 00:52:46]. And last but not least, well, the kind of [inaudible 00:52:51] that [inaudible 00:52:52] has propagated has affinities with the ethos of the middle class, because of [inaudible 00:53:07]. And never forget that this government is also making caste hierarchies legitimate. We've heard things we had never heard before since at least Madan Mohan Malaviya in the '40s.

Mr. Birla, speaker of the Lok Sabha saying, "Brahmins are at the top of society by birth." Who would dare to say something like that over the last 70 years? Nobody. So this notion of Hinduism is back. And as a result, the values of the upper caste are, again, supreme. That's also something to factor in. So that is qualifying the material dimension you were highlighting. It's not sufficient. I don't mean that it will be sufficient, but it's one of the reasons why you may see some middle-class support for BJP for quite some time. South Asia, South India, I think it's not only for the reason you mentioned. It's partly for the reason you mentioned, development, education, of course, but also culture. Tamil Nadu, Kerala will never speak Hindi. There is a barrier there, there is something very deep, very, very substantial. And of course it goes with [inaudible 00:54:42], it goes with caste, also, equations. So I would add this aspect that is important [inaudible 00:54:55].

Tariq Thachil:

Given the time, we have time for just three more questions. I'm going to make people ask them quite quickly, and then Christophe, you can respond to as much as you would like. The first question is from Versha regarding caste and gender. Versha, would you like to ask your question if you're still with us? Versha, are you there? Okay. While we wait, Aditi Singh, would you like to ask your question?

Aditi Singh:

Yeah. Hi, thanks for picking my question. I have a question regarding what is happening with the social cohesion between Muslims and the lower caste. So BJP is using the social engineering to garner the votes of lower caste. But is there any kind of network or cooperation that is happening in collective action against the authoritarian rule of BJP when you consider the student movement, or any kind of protest against NRC, CAA, or recent hijab control [inaudible 00:55:53] in India? So are Dalits or lower castes coming together with the Muslims? Even with cow protection and cow slaughter laws, with the amendments that happen, it affected Muslims and lower caste, I mean equally, I would say. So are they coming together? I mean, one side is the political voting and everything, and the other side is social cohesion. So that is my question.

Tariq Thachil:

Great. And the final question from Indrajit. Indrajit, do you want to ask your question?

Indrajit Roy:

Yeah, hi. So you very nicely told us about the success of the BJP strategy, or the apparent success, at least. So I just wondered what their success tells us about the limits of what you'd earlier called the silent revolution in. Particular, is it simply that the social-justice politics have been dominated by single castes, or is it that they didn't have a more encompassing cultural set of ideas, or project, if you will? As the BJP seems to... I won't say seems to have, but seems to encash or benefit from. Thanks.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Yeah, excellent.

Tariq Thachil:

[crosstalk 00:57:05] is yours. [crosstalk 00:57:06], yeah.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much. These are excellent questions, and I'll begin with Indrajit's question. Yes, the limitations of the Mondi moment, the [Mondil 00:57:25] agenda, if you will, is for me evident from what I've just shown. There is a paradox in reservations. Because you give reservations to Scheduled Caste and there is nothing like Scheduled Caste. There are subgroups within the Scheduled Caste and you don't have creamy layer in the Scheduled Caste. So you may continue to corner the same reservation generations after generations. And that is one reason why those who do not benefit resent those who do benefit, one limitation. And it will be very difficult to introduce a creamy-layer system with the Dalits. It will be very difficult.

The other limitation is, of course, what do you do when you've reached the saturation point? You have all the quota you could have. So what is the program? What do you promise? Well, you can promise something, and that's maybe the next chapter, a caste census. Well, the caste census is a very interesting demand that is emerging among the lower castes across the parties. You have BJP OBCs, RJD OBCs, JDU OBCs asking for a caste census. It's interesting, because for a long time there was no demand [inaudible 00:59:06] across parties like that.

And this demand is very important. Why? Because we need to know. As a famous TV anchor used to say, "The nation wants to know." The nation wants to know what is the over-representation of upper caste in the elite groups of India. Our many upper caste in the judiciary, in the IAS, and so on and so forth. Well, this is why they resist this demand, but it may be the unifying factor. It doesn't mean that the previous two points, the two limitations I've mentioned will go away, but there may be one reason for, I mean, some new mobilization to [inaudible 01:00:00]. That's one possibility. The third demand, by the way... I mean, the other demand by the way, is stop privatizations. Because privatizations are really making reservations redundant. How many jobs [inaudible 01:00:17] do they represent? Very few, less and less.

On the relations between lower caste and Muslims, that's of course, a very important point. And if we return to Gujarat, Gujarat is always ahead of the rest of India. What is happening in Gujarat today will happen to India tomorrow. We saw this in so many directions, liberalization, anti-reservation movements, a rise of BJP. So all this is interconnected. And one of the things that we saw in Gujarat as early as the '80s, is you need to break any form of solidarity between Muslims and Dalits by triggering, engineering riots. That's what happened in the '80s, and that's what happens in many other places. And it's not so difficult, because usually the Dalit neighborhood, the Dalit basti and the Muslim neighborhood are next to each other. Only separated by a railroad line, or by a Nala. But it's clearly a group that can fight when the riot is engineered properly. And never forget that in the 2002 pogrom, those who fought Muslims, against Muslims, were certainly Patels, but also Dalits in large members.

So how do they resist these forces of division? Well, by resorting to class solidarity. And again, UP is an interesting laboratory these days. Because we are under the impression that in West UP, Muslim and Jat farmers... I mean, you can say Muslims are Jats as well. But if you want, Muslim Jats and Hindu Jats are again joining hands. Which is really new when you look at the [inaudible 01:02:47] Muzaffarnaga riot of 2013, when this divide, this communal divide prevailed. This is the kind of laboratory we need to scrutinize, because this is one of the antidotes to criminalism. You look at solidarity, as you say, social solidarity, from the point of view of your class position at the expense of your religious-ethnic identity. One more reason for looking at the UP elections closely.

Tariq Thachil:

Christophe, thank you so much for giving us your time. To everyone whose question I couldn't answer, just so you know, there were over 30 that I received. There was no way that we were going to be able to ask all of those. So I apologize for not being able to get to everyone's, but I thank you for your participation. I've saved the chat so that Christophe can receive all of the questions, and he will get all of your comments and can look over them. And thank you for your engagement. Christophe, thank you for taking the time to share your interesting work with us and to answer all of our questions, or as many as you could. And all the best for the rest of the semester in the UK and in France. And [inaudible 01:04:05] hope to have you this side of the Atlantic in the near future. So be well, stay well, and thank you everyone for joining, and hope to see you next week.

Christophe Jaffrelot:

Thank you, all. Thank you, Tariq. Bye-bye.