BP Mandal: The forgotten social reformer and leader of Indian politics

Twenty eight years down the memory lane BP Mandal, who served as the non-Congress chief minister of Bihar for 50 days, evokes little interest either among the politicians or academics and media

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter
user

Soroor Ahmed

Had Union minister of state for human resources development Upendra Kushwaha not proposed a new socio-political realignment in Bihar on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal on August 25 the latter would have been a forgotten man. Apart from Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, it was Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal which commemorated the occasion. Other beneficiaries of Mandal chose not to remember him in a big way on this occasion though his report on backward castes reservation implemented by the then Prime Minister VP Singh in August 1990 brought about a big change in country’s politics.

Though Lalu Prasad became the chief minister of Bihar on March 10 that year, which is five months before its implementation the Mandal Commission report certainly helped him and Mulayam Singh Yadav consolidate their position in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Similarly, today the present Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar may be in the National Democratic Alliance he cannot dissociate himself from the pro-Mandal past. It was his importance as a backward caste leader only next to Lalu which prompted the Bharatiya Janata Party to woo him and thus weaken the strong political equation.

Twenty eight years down the memory lane B P Mandal, who served as the non-Congress chief minister of Bihar for 50 days––February 1 to March 22, 1968––evokes little interest either among the politicians or academics and media. While Lalu and Mulayam are now no more a force as they were in early 1990s and Nitish is in the camp where it is not prudent enough to speak the same language, the 100th birthday passed off without much fanfare.

The truth is that Mandal himself would not have ever been remembered in Indian politics had VP Singh not taken out from the shelf the report submitted by the Commission headed by him and implemented it. Whatever may be his motive he could not politically cash in on and prevent the split within his party––the then Janata Dal. Three months later he was out of power.

But this political upheaval has its own fall out. That is, today there is very little people left to remember B P Mandal, who was born a century ago in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Benaras. But he is originally from Murho village of Madhepura, a district in Bihar known for heavy Yadav concentration. “If Rome is for Pope, Madhepura is for Gopes (Yadav),” goes the saying in Bihar.

That was the high time of communal polarisation as BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani had already launched his Ram Jamjanbhoomi movement. Lalu, the then Bihar chief minister, emerged as the hero of Mandal camp, when on October 23 the same year he got the BJP leader arrested in Samastipur district while he was leading Somnath to Ayodhya Yatra.

Curiously, RK Singh, the power minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, was then the district magistrate of Samastipur.

The implementation of Mandal brought in another type of polarisation, that was on the caste line, especially in North India.

The caste divide, coupled with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 22, 1991––while Lok Sabha election was still on––stonewalled the BJP’s prospect to win the poll that year. The saffron party had to wait till 1998 to come to power and that too in alliance with the about two dozen parties. Even the first Lok Sabha election held in 1996 after the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 could not give the saffron party enough seat to come to power. That was simply because it took much time for the BJP to overcome the challenge posed by the votaries of Mandal, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Gradually, the BJP too realised the importance of Mandal. It introduced its own brand of social engineering and thus succeeded in coming to power on its own in 2014.

Mandal and Mandir did not work at cross purposes in 2014 as they did in 1990s.

But this political upheaval has its own fall out. That is, today there is very little people left to remember B P Mandal, who was born a century ago in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Benaras. But he is originally from Murho village of Madhepura, a district in Bihar known for heavy Yadav concentration. “If Rome is for Pope, Madhepura is for Gopes (Yadav),” goes the saying in Bihar.

Mandal himself came from a landed family of this caste. While academics and mediapersons––like many politicians––have allowed Mandal to slip from their memory Prof Kazuya Nakamizo of Kyoto University, continues to remember him. He has been coming to Bihar since late 1990s and had spent a lot of time in Murho as a part of his research work. He still comes when hardly anyone from Indian intelligentsia recall Mandal. But his works are mostly in Japanese.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.

next