Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2014
While in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, Dalits and Backward Classes in India were asserting social and political empowerment with an urge to get their shares in the development pie of a declared welfare state, the traditionally dominant upper caste/class national elite fashioned a political discourse and an agenda for new political economy, which were not only inherently biased against the interests of the newly assertive social groups, but were capable of eroding the ideological legitimacy of their politics and movement and defeating their larger objectives. Firstly, through the vocabulary of political discourse, an element of apprehension, uncertainty and instability was infused in the national psyche to claim that any change in regime, i.e., replacement of the traditionally dominant upper-caste/class ruling elite by leaders of the new social groups, would unleash an era of political and economic uncertainty, social conflict and immoral politics. Secondly, the new policy regime – free market economy, non-state actors (greater participation of non-governmental organizations or NGOs) and review of the constitution – were premised on the understanding that there had been something wrong with the policy and institutions and not with the policymakers; power structure and not the power wielders.
This discourse would serve the interest of the traditionally dominant upper-caste/class national elite in two ways: one, it would put down curtains on the (failures) past regimes, which in spite of lofty preaching and umpteen promises failed to improve the life chances of Dalits and Backward Classes in general.