Thakurs Emerge as the Biggest Chink in Modi’s Armour

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Thakurs Emerge as the Biggest Chink in Modi’s Armour

What is happening as a response to Parshottam Rupala’s comments could be the Thakurs’ first war cry. If Rajputs across India stand up to fight, Modi’s ashvamedh will be stopped once and for all.

Recently, Union minister and Modi confidant Purushottam Rupala filed his nomination in Rajkot, amidst a big uproar in the Rajput community. The Kshatriya community was hurt by acerbic and unprovoked slander against their heritage by Rupala. Many believe that Rupala’s loose words, may after all, not be that loose, and instead, give us a core insight into Modi’s personal opinion of the Thakur community.

So, are Modi and the BJP okay with the perception that having used the ‘Thakurs/Rajputs’, the party and the leader are happy to let them go?

Beyond Gujarat

The problem is not limited to Gujarat. Many Rajputs across the country feel that after rising to power, Modi has now sidelined the Kshatriya community. In another recent spat, Rajputs in Western UP had risen up in protest against the Modi government over a variety of issues. Primary among them is the step-brotherly treatment meted out to Rajputs in Western UP. The Ram Mandir, now built, there is a perception, borne out by recent surveys done by Lokniti-CSDS, that the ‘Hindu electorate’ is now getting disillusioned with emotive appeals and are concentrating on local issues of inflation and caste favouritism adopted by Modi government.

For example, Western UP Rajputs feel they were not proportionately represented in tickets allocated by Modi for the ongoing election.

Beyond politics

But it’s not only politics that dismays them. Look at the cultural symbolism of Raja Bhoj. The Rajputs and Gurjars have both claimed Raja Bhoj as their own, but never before had fights erupted between them. But to gain political mileage, as trouble was fomented, the Modi government sided with Gurjars instead of Rajputs. This is was seen as a low blow to Kshtariya pride, as there are many folk stories and lineages emerging from Raja Bhoj among the Rajput community.

This was also a big cultural hit. Even Samajwadi party leader, Akhilesh Yadav was quickly to support the Rajputs in West UP and warned the BJP of their anger.

Other culturally significant factors which have been simmering underneath the surface, include the hyper-glorification of Shivaji and his Maratha army. The RSS for decades now has been led by only Maharashtrian brahmins (with the exception of “Rajju Bhaiya” Rajendra Singh, RSS’s only non-Maharashtrian non-Brahmin leader). The tilt towards Shivaji and Maratha iconography seems natural to Maharastrians because of their historically close association.

The Modi government glorified Shivaji by installing statues all over the country. But it has gone on to definitely strike a discord with some Rajput communities, especially in Rajasthan. Here, later Marathas are known for their pillaging and loot of Rajput principalities such as Mewar, and that too, repeatedly.

Many Rajputs grew up with stories of the descendants of Rana Pratap being looted by descendants of Shivaji, and many Rajputs dislike Marathas rulers for it.

Realpolitik 2024

From culture if we look at realpolitik, Modi 1.0, in his first tenure, had Rajputs as the vanguard, with many siting chief ministers belonging to the community, along with a good representation in state and parliamentary assemblies. But slowly the number started to dwindle.

The concurrence of the murder of Karni Sena leader Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi on the very day of the BJP coming to power in Rajasthan has raised eyebrows. From WhatsApp groups to living room conversations, the larger Rajput community feels slighted. Especially as the Karni Sena build up is seen to have added to BJP’s campaign – the massive campaign against the Padmaavat fed directly into identity polarisation and was seen as beneficial to BJP’s politics.

In the run up to the election 2024, even the optics of power sharing with Thakur communities were shed.

First, Rajput cabinet ministers like Narendra Singh Tomar, V.K. Singh, and Radha Mohan Singh, among others, were dropped. At a state level, important former Rajput chief ministers like Raman Singh and others were sidelined. Meanwhile the sidelining of Vasundhra Raje is not taken to kindly by Rajputs. Raje although Jat by marriage and Scindia by blood, is popular among Rajputs, and her diminished role has many Rajputs bristling. The ‘Jat versus Rajput’ situation is in play from Rajasthan to Western Uttar Pradesh, and is now beginning to be a electoral problem for the BJP, which had otherwise taken this region for granted.

Modi versus Yogi?

The tussle between Yogi Adityanath and Modi is no secret. Adityanath 1.0, in his first term, was seen to have been under pressure from the PMO on even small decisions. While Thakurs still rally behind Adityanath, the elephant in the room is the lack of clarity on who is the number two in the BJP camp – Adityanath or the close Modi associate from Gujarat, Amit Shah?

The perception of ‘caste favouritism’ is creating a bigger conflict in the villages and rural areas, as groups are now attempting to capture the Thakur status, and even adding “Singh” to their names as a dignified choice.

Meanwhile, other Rajput ministers at the Union level have been reshuffled like Giriraj Singh, but the worst of all fates is seen to be of Rajnath Singh, who appears to have a far more diminished role in Modi 2.0.

Former chief minister of UP, Rajnath still commands considerable sway amongst UP Thakurs. Rajnath represented a Thakur leader image, whereas Modi, allegedly, was seen as the candidate from the Brahmin lobby. The perception has been that both lobbies have kept each other in check, but now one side seems to have far outweighed the other.

These camps have existed since the rise of the BJP, with Rajju Bhaiya being the north Indian Thakur marauder into this Maharashtrian Brahmin stronghold. Today, the last vestiges of Rajju Bhaiya’s camp and Thakur politics have been sidelined.

Thakurs reversing the tide?

It is clear that is a strain of discord which has building up over the past few years amongst the Thakurs in north India.

A look back in history, may have lessons to offer, especially, two of the biggest movements against excesses of Brahminical thought – Jainism and Buddhism.

Mahavir was a Thakur prince, before he joined the Jain monks, and started to preach a new way of life away from the Brahminical orthodoxy. It represented another system. The Buddha, a rajput prince, is also an example of this counter-Brahminical force which spoke of egalitarian values and rights of downtrodden and oppressed people in the subcontinent. This movement, despite its disappearance from India, did succeed in limiting Brahminical hegemony over society. And this process helped renew our civilisation. Buddhism even today presents a viable alternative to orthodoxy. This, despite Sanatan Dharma assimilating many such movements over the course of history.

Even after Adi Shankarcharya helped turn the tide from Buddhism back to the primacy of Vedic thought, vestiges of Buddhist sects and an alternative Thakur spiritual order survived in Shakti Darshan. The Aghor and Tantra practices drew mainly Thakurs, in fact some of these monastic orders require that  the head of the order will always have to be a Thakur. Adityanath’s order is one amongst them.

To sum up, what is happening now could be the Thakurs’ first war cry. Politically speaking, if the Rajputs from Rajasthan to the border of Bengal find they have reason to twin with Muslims, a large section of OBCs, STs, and SCs, Modi’s ashvamedh will be stopped, once and for all.

 

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