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The RSS-BJP Economic Development Model: Support the Upper Castes and Ignore Bahujans

Over the decades, Indian economists and politicians have completely ignored the agrarian classes but things are changing.
Representative image of farmers in Goa. Credit: Public Doman

After I wrote a piece titled ‘Rahul Gandhi is Reshaping Congress Welfare Agenda: I Call it the Shudra Development Model’, there has been quite a bit of curiosity about what the Shudra Development Model (SDM), Brahmin-Bania Development Model (BBDM) are.

So far there are broadly three development models that Indian economists, whether educated in India or abroad, talk and write about: 1. The liberal development model; 2. the neo-liberal development model; and 3. the socialist development model. The pro-Congress economists, till the globalisation and liberalisation of the 1990s, were bracketed as liberal economists and the pro-RSS/BJP economists were among the neo-liberals. Left-oriented economists were seen as backers of socialist development.

There was hardly any indigenous economic model that was developed in the post-colonial economic discourse of India. The only concept that I know of is that the Indian economists used the term ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’. This was used in the sense of a slow growth rate without any rational explanation.

If an economist does not deal with the role of caste in determining the financial allocations from the state budget with a caste benefit perspective, they, whatever their own caste location, will do a caste-blind economic analysis and that would help the Dwija economy. The Dwija methods of garnering state money without being involved in any productive work is part of their caste ideology and varna dharma heritage. The spiritual system of Sanatana Dharma is meant to keep the Dwijas well-fed and starve the food producers.

The varna dharma state allocation of finances goes against the entire agrarian and artisanal economy, which I call the Shudra economy. The Shudra economy is structurally opposite to the Dwija economy. The Shudra economy mainly survives on agrarian and artisanal production, not on profit. Investing in labour on the land and producing food and other commodities is central to the Shudra ideology. The money for the state budget mostly comes from their activities. If it is not reinvested in those fields of production, the economy would get depressed.

If the Shudra forces become industrialists, their relationship to the agrarian economy would be sympathetic and interactive with labour and land. The Dwija industrialist consciousness is anti-Shudra and anti-agrarian. In fact, the Dwija economy survived and prospered only by looting the Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi economic resources for millennia, both through market and state apparatus. The development of Indian industry on a massive scale when the RSS-BJP came to power is more because the Government in Delhi is pushing the contract economy into the hands of Dwija industrialists by starving the agrarian sector, as it is mainly in the hands of Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi communities. So far, no economic model has analysed and understood this systemic bias in the allocation of budget resources.

After the RSS-BJP came to power in 2014 with the slogan ‘Sab Ka Sath and Sab Ka Vikas’, where did the national state budget economy get spent in real terms? Whom did it develop? In caste-class terms, the agrarian and artisanal Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi masses hardly got any visible vikas (development) with the resources allocated by the Union government. Most of the central budget was spent on infrastructure like highways, big airports, Vande Bharat, etc. The RSS-BJP government is also spending money on building stadiums for global games.

Privatisation of most government industrial units at cheaper rates – mostly to Bania-Brahmin industrialists – has come at the cost of reducing the reserved jobs for Dalit, Adivasi and OBC communities. The salaried incomes of persons from SC, ST and OBC communities employed in these sectors are also a source of investment in the rural agrarian and artisanal communities. By cutting down such reserved jobs the BJP-RSS Union government is directly helping the Brahmin-Bania rich and providing more jobs to youth born and brought up in Dwija families and educated in private sector schools and colleges in English medium. The RSS/BJP is opposing English medium in government sector education, where the children of agrarian and artisanal masses study. India is not going through a national economic depression but is going through a caste economic depression. This depression does not bother anyone from the Indian school of economists now and there is no B.R. Ambedkar among the productive masses to understand this process.

The RSS-BJP government has close relationships with major industrialists. The Dwija industrialists have an ideological affinity with the political agenda of the RSS-BJP. The fact, however, is that there are no Dalits, Shudras and Adivasis among those major industrialists – except for the Shiv Nadar family. The presence of Gujarati Banias and Marwadis is so visible that no other caste can match them in manipulating Government resources to advance themselves. Ambani, Adani, Vedanta, Lakshmi Mittal and so on are known Bania industrialists. Infosys,  the biggest software company, is run by a Brahmin family.

Since the Union government has control over banks, it has written off lakhs of crores of loans given to big industrialists. As I said, the big businesses and big industrialists come from the Brahmin, Bania, Kayastha, Khatri and Kshatriya castes. There are hardly any Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis in that economy. The government investments in that economy do not benefit the productive Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi communities. At the same time, the RSS-BJP government is against writing off small farm loans. Their economists keep arguing such a process will make the farmers lazy. But they never characterise industrialists as lazy or criminal.

The huge amounts that go into such an industrial contract economy do not plough back into markets to upscale the GST returns to the state. Only some of it gets re-invested, some remains in the banks and some goes to foreign countries through hawala transactions and asset purchases. They live a life that could be called half-Indian with one foot in India and another foot in London or New York. The RSS-BJP project them as better nationalists than the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis who always live in India, that too in villages.

The RSS-BJP’s focus on spending more and more budget on big infrastructure like massive highways, airports and seaports within India through this contract economy, in which there are massive profit ratios, completely goes into the hands of the very same business castes. Even the rich agrarian Shudras have no share in that profit economy. Even the richest Shudra landed castes like Patels, Marathas, Jats, Reddys, Kammas, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Mudaliyars, Nairs and so on do not get much share in this central contract economy.

Representative image of a highway. Photo: Matt Hardy/Pexels

The development that takes place in that economy is, in my view, a Brahmin-Bania Development Economy. It created an economic depression in the agrarian economy of India, because of under-growth in that sector, and also because of lack of enough investment. The Left’s economic analysis based on pure class methodology could never grasp this process. This caste blindness killed their ideology.

Wherever the BJP is in power in the states, the welfare dose from the state budget to the agrarian and artisanal masses is very minimal. In the current elections to five state assemblies — Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram – the BJP’s welfare package offered in the manifesto vis-a-vis the Congress and regional parties is the lowest. In Telangana, as against the BRS (regional party) welfare package, the Congress party offered a far better agrarian welfare package. For the first time, a national party offered Rs 15,000 per acre investment and Rs 12,000 per person to agriculture labourers. There are promises of old age pension too, and subsidised gas cylinders. More importantly, the Congress is now promising to write off 2 lakh agriculture loans to which the BJP is very seriously opposed. Yet, it has been consistently writing off bank loans of Dwija industrialists on a massive scale.

The money pumped into the accounts of the agrarian masses will be ploughed back into the rural markets within a month or two, and thereby into the GST income of the state. What is the BJP offering in Telangana? One cow per family and scrapping the 4% reservation available for Muslims. Why does the RSS-BJP not want to send the budget money into the accounts of the Shudra, Dalit and Adiavasi people’s accounts but pump it into the rich industrialists’ accounts? What is the opinion of an OBC Prime Minister about agrarian welfare?     

The BJP’s hatred for agrarian producers is in tune with what Prime Minister Modi called revdi culture (culture of freebies), terming it “dangerous for the development of the country.” Whose development is he so concerned about?

As against this view about the welfare schemes that are meant for the agrarian producers, Modi quite openly said that he was not among those who feared to “stand beside industrialists”.

He has never stood among the farmers and agrarian labour. Development for Modi is Brahmin-Bania development. Unlike Modi, Rahul Gandhi, who claimed to be Brahmin, goes and stands by labouring men and women in the fields. But the OBC prime minister never visits an agrarian field and stands with them. This approach of despising agriculture and the agrarian masses is learnt from the RSS.

The Shudra development model improves rural life. When the state spends money from its budget on it, there is all-round development. This was witnessed in Tamil Nadu in the late 1960s, when the DMK came to power – it spent money on food for school children, books, and improving school infrastructure. The rural Tamil medium schools were meant for the Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi agrarian masses, whereas the Dwijas were sending their children to private English medium schools. Now, the spending on welfare for the rural masses is massive in Tamil Nadu.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy transferring substantial amounts of money to the mothers of school and college-going children, spending money on improving the school infrastructure by stopping the construction of the so-called Singapore-like capital city in Amaravati has provided a new impetus to the Shudra Development Model. 

Now, after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and interaction with agrarian masses in the fields, in the villages, in the roadside tea shops, he pushed a reluctant Congress to adopt the Shudra Development Model in the states that are going to election. They have done that in Karnataka and have promised to do so in Telangana. Since the Congress, an experienced national party, is going in this direction, there is certainly some hope. The Southern states are now moving in this new direction and a national party has come around to support the SDM as against the BBDM, which it was earlier supporting to various degrees.  

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His latest book is The Clash of Cultures (Productive Masses Vs Hindutva-Mullah Conflicting Ethics).

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