ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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In Search of a Robust Egalitarianism


In the context of the elections that were held to choose the 15th President for India, one often hears the following expression, “we are the first political party that has made it possible for a person from the deprived social groups to be elected to the highest office of the country.” From such an expression, what would follow, at least for some, is the following: (i) such a claim would obliquely suggest that a party or a group of parties with an obligation to stay politically correct occupy the special and perhaps superior moral position to give meaning to inclusive democracy by supporting, in the present case, an Adivasi who hitherto has been excluded from occupying the highest public office; and (ii) some of the politics of symbolic presence is likely to argue that producing the election outcome in favour of an Adivasi or a Dalit is proof that the political party stands for the principle of justice. For such political observers may further claim that these do have the strength and will power to rotate the chakra or the wheel of justice so as to get the most deprived into the coveted constitutional office.

One could also notice the subtext of such a claim inasmuch as it indirectly suggests that other parties, which did put up an opposition candidate, do lack the foresight to look for the inclusion of a person whose public presence was not considered worthy of attention, particularly by the opposition. The editorial in the current issue of the EPW does bring out the complicity of the idea of political presence. One would not expect parties that brandish their virtue of social generosity to use other more comprehensive criterion, except social background, as an adequate ground for defending the choice of the candidate from the marginalised social group. Choosing a candidate from the most neglected sections only shows the limits of such an egalitarian choice because there are likely to be many on the list of the most neglected. For example, one would not expect such parties to defend their claim by electing the candidate from the margins on the grounds that elevation through election is the compensation, for example, for tribal displacement caused by the processes of “development.” Or it is a compensation for the humiliation of Dalits. Without this frankness and objectivity, their claim that they are committed to the principle of justice looks weak at its best and hypocritical at its worst. The redressal of the perennially worsening condition of the marginals—the Adivasis and the Dalits—makes the “top-down” claim of justice to the margins more of a symbolic value rather than bearing any substantive significance.

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Updated On : 13th Aug, 2022
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