Dilip Awasthi and Javed M. Ansari
December 31, 1993
In India, 50 per cent of the media is pro-BJP: Kanshi Ram
He sits in an old chair in the corner of a sparsely furnished and dimly lit room in New Delhi, speaking in a commanding tone and bristling with a new confidence for, at 59, Kanshi Ram has finally arrived in politics.
Taking an almost childish delight in telling his stream of visitors how he succeeded despite dire predictions to the contrary, Kanshi Ram talks in a low voice although his conversation is high on rhetoric when he touches on his favourite theme - the "Brahminical social order".
His euphoria is understandable. Kanshi Ram and his Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have entered the political firmament from virtually nowhere with the help, of course, of his ally Mulayam Singh. Kanshi Ram has seen his party grow from being a fringe force merely nibbling into the votes of the major parties to capturing 67 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
Principal Correspondents Dilip Awasthi and Javed M. Ansari asked Kanshi Ram, generally referred to as belonging to a Scheduled Caste, about his future strategy, his contempt for the existing social order and the confusion surrounding his own caste. Excerpts:
Q. Despite so many years in politics you still remain an enigma. Some callyou a Brahmin, others believe you are a former IAS officer while some are convinced that you are a Christian.
A. All this is a media manipulation. As many as 110 cover stories on me have appeared so far and you are still asking me this question. I am fed up of this question and will not answer it. If you want, you can refer to the old records or ask my workers outside.
Q. Why do you think the media should be against you?
A. Because the media is a creation of money. In fact, the biggest hurdles for the BSP and the downtrodden have been money, the mafia and the media. We lost 40 seats in Uttar Pradesh because of the media. Despite my denials, newspapers such as the Dainik Jagran kept saying that we did not want Muslim votes. In India 50 per cent of the media is pro-BJP, 35 per cent is pro-Congress(I) and the rest supports the other Brahminical parties like the Janata Dal, the CPI and the CPI(M).
Q. You keep attacking these parties but at the same time the SP-BSP Government in Uttar Pradesh is surviving purely on the strength of their support?
A. We have sought only an unconditional support. I had told both Prime Minister Rao and Janata Dal chief Bommai that in the first option I would like them to support the BJP. If they do not want this, they could either support us or go in for fresh elections all over again. After all, we had passed the "examination" with a poor third class. How could we demand support? But I made it clear to them that if they decided to support us, there would be no riders.
Q. But how long will such a fragile arrangement last?
A. It is for them to decide. It is the compulsion of realpolitik that has forced them to support us. I have already warned Mulayam that we have so far the support of the leaders only and not their MLAs. So let him seek a vote of confidence much before January 15, maybe by December 15 itself. We have absolutely no problems if the elections are held again and I have made it clear to Mulayam also that if he is with me then he has to stop worrying about the chair. Our aim is to provide insaaf (justice) to everyone and not occupy the chair.
Q. There is lot of speculation that you might desert Mulayam yourself.
A. I have not joined hands to desert him. There was an urgency to defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and we have done this. There is a perfect understanding between us and this alliance can extend to other states as well. But I would give it about six months time before we actually do it.
Q. What kind of a role do you envisage for yourself? Are you the monitor or the king-maker?
A. I am neither. I am just a helper to Mulayam because after all he is the chief minister. I have told him that he is the one who has to deliver. I can only help him.
Q. But do you think that you could prove to be the biggest stumbling block in a possible reunion of Mulayam and the rest of the Janata Dal leaders?
A. No, if they decide to join Mulayam, I have no objections.
Q. But you have very strong feelings against most of these leaders whom you call "Brahminical forces"?
A. There is no doubt about that because people like V.P. Singh, Ajit Singh along with Maulana Bukhari have helped the BJP to ensure the BSP's defeat in western Uttar Pradesh. They have been in league with the BJP for a long time now. Murli Manohar Joshi was Singh's chief electoral agent in Allahabad when I contested against him in 1988. He along with the BMAC and the Muslim League have proved to be the biggest supporters of the BJP.
Q. Before your alliance with Mulayam, you were considered a Congress(I) stooge.
A. That again is a media manipulation. How can somebody who has masterminded the Congress(I)'s decline from 350 seats in 1989 to just 28 seats in 1993 in Uttar Pradesh be called a Congress(I) agent? And when I say that the Congress(I) is the "A" team of the Brahminical order followed by the BJP which is the "B" team - the Janata Dal being the "C" team, the CPI(M) the "D" team and the CPI the "E" team - will any of them like to have any connections with me?
Q. But how do you gain by calling all of them names?
A. My strategy is simple. I do not want a stable government. If the Government, whether at the Centre or in a state is stable, the BSP is weak and if the Government is unstable, the BSP emerges stronger. We have ensured a hung assembly to make the BSP stronger. Like Rao says that the BJP is down and not out which means he wants the BJP out. But I do not want it. They should remain down and not out for tactical reasons. If the BJP is out, the Congress(I) emerges as the winner. Similarly the BJP wanted the Congress(I) ousted from Uttar Pradesh. I did not want it so. I asked my people to attend the Congress(I) rallies to bolster the party's morale. I also told my supporters not to make any attacks against the Congress(I). My theory was that if the Congress(I) gets more seats than the Janata Dal, the BJP will lose automatically and thereby pave the way for the SP-BSP combine.
In the other case, if the Janata Dal had got more seats than the Congress(I), we would have lost to the BJP. That is why V.P. Singh and Ajit Singh were being supported by the BJP and I decided to favour the Congress(I). It was like two matches being played simultaneously - one a final between the SP-BSP and the BJP and the other a semi-final between the Congress(I) and the Janata Dal. I want that they - the Congress(I) and BJP and all the other Brahminical parties - should keep fighting and destroying each other. For the time being they can all combine to give an unstable government which suits the BSP because langari ghori ko tangari maarnaa aasaan hotaa hai (it is easy to make a lame pony trip).
Q. But what is the strategy behind blaming everything on the Brahminical order?
A. That is not a strategy. It is the mission of my life. The Brahminical social order is like this dot pen (he holds up his ballpoint) held vertically with the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas dominating the top. The rest is dominated by the Shudras, the Ati-Shudras (lowest castes) and the Bahujan Samaj. And see the manipulation of the Brahaminical order. The Shudras and Ati-Shudras are further divided into 6,000 castes. It is time this pen is held horizontally.
Q. But how will this happen?
A. It is quite simple. When this majority of Shudras and Ati-Shudras collectively launches this crusade, the rest of the people have to do one simple thing - drop their tails (their surnames). Kanshi Ram has dropped his tail and his eyes are set on the tails of others. A Singh or a Prasad or a Ram does not tell you anything about a person's caste. Like you were questioning me about my caste and you still keep making all kinds of guesses. But, on the other hand, a Joshi, Advani, Vajpayee or Singhal all carry tails of their castes.
Q. Does Mulayam Singh Yadav too have a tail?
A. He is changing after he came in touch with me.
Q. But in what way do these tails bother your electorate?
A. They are the ones who have suffered because of these tails. I realised this way back in 1965 when I was working as a scientist in the explosive section at the Defence Research Laboratory in Pune. I had read Dr Ambedkar's book Annihilation of Castes. I decided to take over Dr Ambedkar's unfinished mission. After 108 years of struggle the Shudras and the Ati-Shudras have come out of the dark age to this chamcha age. The Bahujan Samaj is dependent on others. They work and spin money for others. I want a social transformation now. These chamaars buy shoes worth Rs.100 crore per year which they themselves make. But the Banias eat the profits. I want them to be independent.
Q. Is this how you have made political inroads amongst them?
A. I have been able to do it because I don't offer any promises. I do not tell them that I will get them jobs or make them richer. I just tell them that I can ensure one little thing for the chamaars - and that is make them the rulers of this country. I tell them to have faith in me and that is all I say.
Q. But don't you think that you will make the upper castes panicky?
A. Their guilt makes them panicky more than anything else. They should accept the horizontal social order before it is too late.
Q. Where do you get your money from? It is often rumoured that you are funded by influential businessmen such as Jayant Malhotra.
A. There is no need for this because I have planned for all this much in advance. I have organised three in-built generators to take care of everything. The first one is a think-tank, the second one a group of talented people and the third a fund-raising squad. I can raise crores of rupees whenever I want. In the villages it is not Jai Shri Ram any more. Now you can just say Jai Kanshi Ram and get as much money as you want. In the coming days, if you want to give me money, you will have to stand in a three-mile-long queue. Besides, the Bahujan Samaj, regardless of its poverty, eats food worth Rs.300 crore per day. If they keep hungry for just one day, we save that much money. Money is not our problem any more.
[Courtesy: India Today, December 31, 1993]