ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When the Caste Calculus Fails

While Dipankar Gupta and Yogesh Kumar (August 18) deserve commendation for their attempt to expose the inadequacy of caste calculus in explaining Mayawati’s electoral triumph, their positivist approach will disturb thoughtful readers. They offer no evidence that Mayawati has transcended the highly contentious and increasingly reactionary discourse of caste. They argue that her grand alliance of upper and lower castes is a metaphor. Metaphor of what? Hardly that of class. For Mayawati has not appealed to poorer upper caste sections on the basis of a secular agenda. What she appears to have done is cleverly play on upper caste fears and frustrations without abandoning her dalit base explicitly.

Their allusion to Mao Zedong innovative strategic alliance with disgruntled rich peasants and “enlightened” gentry in this context is frivolous and misleading. Mao’s long-term goal was revolutionary social transformation. Mayawati has in her bag only limited redistributive powers of a state government – already seriously cramped by the prevailing neoliberal ideology, which she has not renounced. At best her efforts will lead to a new alliance of caste-elites under a democratic guise, further increasing the tempo of class-exploitation. During her first spell as chief minister she showed little real concern for the poor, but had gone out of her way to push lavish, grandiose mega-projects for the benefit of capitalists.

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