If reservation hitting Kayasthas hard, a feeling has started growing among a section of this caste that the saffron party is not doing justice to it, Soroor Ahmed.
Two senior politicians of the Kayastha caste of united Bihar, Yashwant Sinha (he was born in Patna but was MP from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand) and Shatrughan Sinha were in the news recently. Two others – former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and ex-member of the Rajya Sabha, R.K. Sinha – are apparently not in the good book of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership, though they had a strong RSS connection.
Kayasthas, a prominent upper caste having presence in Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, etc., have since Gupta period mainly been writers, administrators, record-keepers, revenue and tax collectors.
In the Hindi heartland states they have been reposing full faith in the Bharatiya Janata Party ever since the implementation of the Mandal Commission report by the then V.P. Singh government in August 1990.
Yet, of late, prominent figures of this caste in the BJP, especially in Bihar, and to some extent in UP, are feeling marginalised. This is notwithstanding the fact that they had jumped on the saffron bandwagon with the hope that the party would do something for them in the post-Mandal era when the political and administrative spaces are shrinking for them.
While Yashwant Sinha, who had served as the finance and external affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet (1998-2004), unsuccessfully contested the Presidential election, Bihari Babu earlier this year won Lok Sabha by-poll on Trinamool Congress ticket from Asansol in West Bengal. In fact, Yashwant Sinha too was in the TMC till he became the candidate of the opposition party on June 21.
He had a long association with the Bharatiya Janata Party and was among those who first proposed the name of Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the saffron party in 2013.
His son Jyant Sinha had even served as a minister in the first Modi cabinet. Yet later he regretted proposing Modi as PM face.
Yashwant, like several other BJP bigwigs, such as Arun Shourie, Jaswant Singh, not to speak of Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, were sidelined by the present top brass of the party.
Yashwant, a former IAS officer, who quit the job to plunge into politics while still in service, was not ready to take things lying down. He resigned from the party in 2018 after 26 years long association and on March 13, 2021, that is on the eve of the West Bengal Assembly poll, joined the Trinamool Congress.
Somewhat like him, Shatrughan Sinha too was Minister for Shipping in the Vajpayee ministry, but could not find place in the first Modi cabinet. Fed up with the manner in which he was treated by the new leadership of the party, he, though being the BJP MP from Patna Saheb, quit the party and in 2019 contested the election as the Congress candidate. Shotgun, as he is known, was the member of BJP ever since its foundation on April 6, 1980 and was among those who felt perturbed by the way the old guards have been dumped into Marg Darshak Mandal.
He managed to get the Samajwadi Party ticket for his wife Poonam Sinha from Lucknow. Both of them were defeated. Sinha lost to fellow casteman, Ravi Shankar Prasad and his spouse to Rajnath Singh, both of them ministers in the Narendra Modi cabinet.
A few months back, he left Congress to join Trinamool Congress where he got ticket from Asansol. This Lok Sabha seat got vacated after the resignation of Babul Supriyo from the BJP. The latter quit the party after Modi dropped him from the cabinet on July 7, 2021. This was only two months after the saffron party suffered humiliating defeat in West Bengal Assembly election.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, like Shatrughan, was a strong Advani loyalist, who switched side to become ardent Modi-bhakt. He was an influential minister till he was suddenly dropped from the cabinet on July 7, 2021. Even the most seasoned BJP watchers in the national capital could not get any idea beforehand as to why Ravi Shankar and other senior colleague, Prakash Javadekar were thrown out of the cabinet.
Some political observers in Bihar fear that Ravi Shankar may not even get the party ticket from Patna Saheb Lok Sabha seat in 2024 though he comes from the family having RSS link. His father Thakur Prasad was a minister in the Janata Party government.
Similarly, R.K. Sinha, who owns `3,000 crore Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) in India and Australia, failed to get renomination after his term as Rajya Sabha MP expired in 2020. He wanted his son, Rituraj, to get the party ticket but failed in his efforts.
The big question is as to why is the BJP giving no importance to the Kayasthas though their loyalty to the party is very well-known. Till a couple of decades back this caste used to dominate the bureaucracy in Bihar as they were educationally much ahead of others. The first President of India Rajendra Prasad and Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan were two political stalwarts of the post-Independence era. Sachchidanand Sinha, who played a key role in the bifurcation of Bihar from Bengal in 1912, was a leading light of this caste. Besides, K.B. Sahay and Mahamaya Prasad had served as the chief ministers of Bihar in 1960s.
Notable Kayastha personalities from places other than Bihar are Swami Vivekanand, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, scientist J.C. Bose, second Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri, former and present Odisha CMs Biju Patnaik and his son Naveen Patnaik, former UP chief minister Sampoornanand and his West Bengal counterpart Jyoti Basu, film-star Amitabh Bachchan, etc.
During the Mughal rule, many Kayasthas learnt the Persian language as they were engaged in the official work. When the British came to India through the east, they were the one who gradually came close to the powers that be. They soon adopted modern education and the English language.
All India Kayastha Mahasabha was the first caste organisation to come up in India. It was set up in Allahabad in 1887.
They were in forefront of the JP Movement of 1974 launched some months after Abdul Ghafoor became the chief minister of Bihar. This movement soon acquired a national character against the then Indira
Gandhi government as similar struggle was on in Gujarat during the same period.
After the decline of Congress and rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a large number of Kayastha intellectuals and academics joined the saffron camp. They initially did so with the hope that the BJP would adopt a different policy on the issue of reservation which had hit them hard as they were essentially job-seekers.
Kayasthas, at least in Bihar, were more urban-centric; thus, they were less affected by the Left-wing movement.
While in West Bengal and Odisha they had associated with the regional political parties in the cow-belt, they still look towards the BJP for their struggle for survival. If Rajputs, Bhumihars, Brahmins and Other Backward Castes are occupying more space in political arena and reservation hitting Kayasthas hard, a feeling has started growing among a section of this caste that the saffron party is not doing justice to it.