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Priyanka Chaturvedi quits Congress because of 'lumpen goons', joins Shiv Sena: Can any party claim not to include such elements?

Priyanka Chaturvedi, the now-former Congress spokesperson quit the party because it preferred "lumpen" and "goons", and she had been compelled to part ways because party workers who misbehaved with her had their suspension over the incident revoked. Her angst against such a stand that allowed a woman leader unprotected despite her being its voice is understandable.

What is curious is that she switched to the Shiv Sena, a party known for strong arm tactics, muscle-flexing, violence, all of which inspire dread, and an instrument of enforcing bandhs — that's what makes Sena-sponsored bandhs successful. If anything, the word "lumpen" and "goons" are words often used by the media, both print and television, to describe the party's cadres.

Call it irony or contradiction, that is what is a strong facet of Indian politics. One easily shifts stands overnight, from blasting a party to gushing over it the next day. It will be interesting to revisit what she may have said as Congress spokesperson. Tom Vaddakan, who leapt from the Congress to BJP, hopes to carry conviction with people. Gaurav Bhatia, from the Samajwadi Party to the BJP too turns a nice trick on nightly TV news.

Voters seem to accept it.

The only person who had been kind to the Shiv Sena, which was known more for its violence in the initial days than anything else, strange as it may seem, was Roza Deshpande, a leading light of the United Communist Party of India, and daughter of SA Dange, the CPI leader. She had said, "[The] image of the Shiv Sainik as a lumpen proletariat is incorrect and has been entertained by 'petty bourgeoise intellectuals'."

This was virtually a compliment. In The Sena Story, Vaibhav Purendare cites her saying that the party's base "wasn't lumpen. Even the Communist leaders' children joined the Sena. They were of course the members of the working classes, they were from the labour and the poor constituencies. Would Communists call their own children lumpen? The Sena was a mass upsurge, and lumpens may have been one of the constituents of the Sena support-base, as a mass upsurge involves every section of society".

But that party "was certainly wasn't dominated by lumpens, as is made out to be. The educated classes backed the Sena, so many professors and intellectuals swore instant allegiance to it when it appeared on the scene. Plus, the party has won so many elections over the years. Do the lumpen dominate the whole of the electorate?"

Deshpande had said, "The lumpens will wither away, they will associate themselves with elements like Haji Mastan, Yusuf Patel and Arun Gawli. But the Shiv Sena was a genuine movement, a movement of the people against the establishment." Then, "[U]nfortunately, the Communists haven't objectively analysed the growth of the Sena."

We don’t know about where the lumpen moved away to if they did, as Deshpande had said.

The Sena's growth, especially since it tied up with the BJP in the late 1980s, and willingness to persist with politics and governance, took into its ambit those who were left out from the mainstream of political flows in Maharashtra. They were aspiring to growth that included not just jobs and a share of the economic slices that were denied to them — the reason the Shiv Sena was started — but also a share in the power structure and power.

There were many who were social elites of the State and yet left out because of their politics. They could be called the counter-elite as well. If the emerged structure of the Shiv Sena had a mass base, it also had the support of the counter-elite and many of the mass base later became the counter-elite, moving away from a spectator status on the edge of the mainstream, successfully offering them an alternate affiliation and ladder for political aspiration.

The Sena, with the BJP in tow, helped convert Maharashtra's polity into a bipolar one. This meant a successful schism being created in the rural — this is less in urban areas — oligarchical power structure that was hitherto the handmaiden of the Congress and was specific to each of the local areas that acted as nodes. It diluted the Congress stranglehold on the structure of the elites because the local configurations consisted of even those who fled the Congress-affiliated configurations. The monopoly was successfully broken.

Deshpande had put her neck out and spoke what was politically incorrect, but that is an angle worth ruminating on for a while.

After all, look at the cadres from which the Trinamool Congress draws its strength, and fist-for-fist, countrymade firearm-for-countrymade firearm, and stick-to-stick match the Communist Party of India. The use of "lumpen" and "goons" haven't been much of a descriptor when anyone talks or writes about these parties. No party, actually, has been free of a lumpen content, and if you look at the DMK, you will find them there too.

Even in the Congress. Or any other party. BJP's strong arms are merely "bhakts". Of course, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, you have bahubalis. If there are bahubalis, there are bound to be a base for such leaders, and no prizes for guessing what sort of elements they contain.

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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 17:04:30 IST