As elections to the legislative assembly in #Karnataka veer into view, it is common to find anchors and analysts belt out words like ‘AHINDA’ to explain what is happening.
‘AHINDA’ is a Kannada short form for ‘Alpasankhyataru, Hindulidavaru and Dalitaru‘, i.e. the minorities, the backward classes, and Dalits.
This—the clubbing of large masses of people across a big state—is offered as expert political insight whereas, in fact, it is little more than a tired cliche to cover up ignorance, notwithstanding Siddaramaiah‘s formulation of it.
Last week, an “expert”, who wouldn’t be recognised outside his gated community, said on a TV show that caste played an even bigger role in Karnataka than Bihar or UP.
Inasmuch as it may be true, it says little.
There are 199 castes and communities on the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list in Karnataka. The columnist Chaitanya Kalbag says there are now 2,509 castes and communities on the national OBC list.
Try getting your favourite expert and analyst to name nine of them.
Which is why, much of the drawing room talk of AHINDA is hollow—and lazy. It presumes that disparate communities spread across a large geography all think about, act and respond to the same electoral impulses in the same way.
In other words, AHINDA is seen to be homogeneous.
As Prof V.K. Natraj, former director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Mysore, and former director of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, points out, it is anything but.
AHINDA is heterogeneous.
It is an amorphous amalgamation of various social and economic groups.
But, more to the point, the backward classes—the Hindulidavaru in AHINDA—comprise Vokkaligas and Lingayats and Kurubas. Who is not backward by that yardstick?
Christophe Jaffrelot, the well-regarded political scientist, wrote in The Indian Express recently on the “Karnataka Model” of development, as opposed to the “Gujarat Model”.
Prof Jaffrelot used the prism of OBCs to view the two models.
But as Prof Natraj argues, the South of India looks at the backward classes differently from the North.