This article was first published in the Swarajya magazine on April 7, 2014
“We are not an anti-BJP or anti-Congress party but an anti-political establishment party…. This is a small but critical proportion of our voters who said: “don’t touch them [mainstream parties] with a barge pole”. There is a deep and undifferentiated disgust. Our visiting card is we are not from the establishment. We are anti-establishment….Ours is a politics of alternatives… I’d rather we’re seen as the underdog.”
Thus spoke Yogendra Yadav in an interview with Vandita Mishra of The Indian Express published on December 30, 2013. Since I have known Yadav from the year 1994, ever since he joined the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, I have watched with interest his career at CSDS and outside.
For all his claims of being “anti-establishment”, one witnessed from close quarters how hard Yadav worked to cultivate Congress leaders and gain access to Sonia Durbar by becoming a close colleague of Aruna Roy. In fact, I was witness to one of the earliest visits of Kejriwal to CSDS inviting Yadav to join India against Corruption. At that time, Kejriwal had freshly broken away from Aruna Roy’s network and the relations between the two had soured quite a bit because Roy had frustrated Kejriwal’s desperate attempts to become a member of Sonia Gandhi’s personal Durbar and super Cabinet, the NAC (National Advisory Council).
Yadav told Kejriwal that since he held “Aruna di” in great esteem, he could not formally join any organisation or movement that was at loggerheads with Roy’s organisation but that he would help IAC informally, which he did plentifully. Yadav has a special genius for running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. Therefore, he was able to balance the sibling rivalry between Aruna Roy and Kejriwal. On several occasions, I heard him sing songs of praise of both “Sonia ji” and “Rahul ji” as great political geniuses.
Yadav played a key role in helping Kejriwal throwing out the original stalwarts that started the IAC—such as Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Kiran Bedi, Madhu Bhaduri and Anna Hazare. With Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan already on board, IAC quietly turned itself into the most effective proxy of the Congress Party. Despite Roy’s sibling rivalry with Kejriwal, Yadav’s joining AAP came with the blessings of his “Aruna di” because of a green signal from the presiding deity of the NAC – Sonia ji.
In recognition of his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi and her coterie, this patron saint of “anti-establishment” politics had been appointed by the UPA government in scores of powerful committees of the Human Resource Development Ministry as well as the Government of India, including various committees of Sonia Gandhi’s super cabinet, the NAC. Here is a list of Yadav’s appointments by UPA government.
Yadav’s membership in UPA government appointed Committees from 2005 to 2013:
- Member, Steering Committee on Empowerment of SCs, STs and OBCs for the 12th Five Year Plan, Planning Commission, Government of India.
- Special Invitee, Steering Committee on Higher and Technical Education for the 12th Five Year Plan, Planning Commission, Government of India
- Member, Sub Committee on Affirmative Action, National Advisory Council, Government of India
- Member, Governing Council, Indian Council of Social Science Research, 2008 (under Ministry of Human Resource and Development)
- Member, Expert Group to examine and determine the structure and functions of an Equal Opportunity Commission, Government of India, October 2007 – February 2008
- Member of the University Grants Commission’s committee on the diversity index
- Member, Steering Committee on Empowerment of SC, ST, OBC and Minorities for the 11th Five Year Plan, Planning Commission of India, 2006-2007
- Member, sub-committee on content selection, National Translation Mission, Government of India, 2009
- Member, Committee for OBC, University Grants Commission, Delhi, 2009
- Member, National Advisory Council on Right to Education, MHRD, Govt. of India, 2010
- Chair, Task Force on Research and Evaluation on RTE, MHRD, Govt. of India, 2011
- Member, Assessment and Monitoring Authority [to monitor the performance of all the minority-related schemes of Government of India], Planning Commission, Government of India
- Member, Search-cum-Selection Committee for selecting Director, NCERT
- Member, Search-cum-Selection Committee for Fellowships instituted by Rajya Sabha
- Member, Taskforce on Mobilisation and Publicity, NAC on RTE, Ministry of Human Resource Development
- Member, Sub-Committee on 12th plan, Indian Council for Social Science Research
- Member, Committee on Conflict of Interests, University Grants Commission
- Member, Committee on Area Studies Programmes, University Grants Commission
- Member, Committee on ‘Provisions for students and teachers with Disability’, University Grants Commission
- Member, Committee on ‘Review of fellowships’, University Grants Commission
- Member, Committee on ‘Review of NET’, University Grants Commission
- Member, Governing Board, Gandhi Vidya Sansthan, Varanasi
- Member, Governing Council, Indian School of Political Economy
- Member of the Governing body, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (Financed by HRD ministry)
- Chief Advisor (Political Science), National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi. Responsible for textbooks in Political Science for class IX to XII, 2005-2007. He is co-author of the following textbooks:
Fellowships Awarded to “Underdog” Yogendra Yadav:
- Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg Zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin), 2009-10
- Hughes Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Michigan, April 2007
- Senior Research Scholar, Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York, May 2005
- Visiting Scholar, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Pune, May 2003
- Visiting Fellow, CERI-MSH, Paris under the Indo-French Exchange Programme, April 1997
- Member, Group of International Observers for elections to German Bundestag, October 1994
- Visiting Associate, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, May-June 1993
If this is how Yadav gets treated when he is supposedly “anti-establishment” wonder where all he will be when he becomes ‘The Establishment.”!
Under the Guise of Socialism: There has always been an obscene gap between Yadav’s professed pieties and his actual doings. For instance, Yadav claims to be a socialist of the ultra-Swadeshi variety and a camp follower of Ram Manohar Lohia – one of the most outstanding products of the Socialist Party in India. But among the first things Yadav did on entering CSDS was to hob-nob with American and European donor agencies to get huge funds for his Lokniti project as well as for CSDS. He also became one of the key consultants to Ford Foundation. His mandate was to help Ford revamp its fellowship program. For several years he sat on their selection committees for granting fellowships. This too added to his political and patronage clout.
His ability to garner unprecedented amounts of money from diverse international donor agencies is what gave him a central place as the architect of the new and better-endowed avatar of CSDS.
He claimed he was going to revive the socialist tradition and build a new political party for this purpose. Yadav did collect a rag-tag coalition of old socialists and NGOs for this purpose but that party languished. In fact, very few people are aware that his neo-socialist party ever existed. Given all his Sarkari engagements, TV and international commitments, Yadav never gave enough time to nurture it nor to even mourn its death.
Yadav’s anti-Gujarat, anti-BJP Activism Dates Back to NBA: From its very inception, Yadav became an active member of the Medha Patkar’s NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) and World Social Forum – because these were the most “happening” things in activism in those days. Both the NBA network and the World Social Forum brigade consisted of foreign-funded NGOs and activists calling themselves “people’s movements.”
Since Yadav was initiated into hard-core activism by none other than Medha Patkar of NBA – an organisation set up at the instigation of Congress stalwart Digvijay Singh, then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh –Yadav developed close links with Congress Party very early. Clear evidence of Congress backing to NBA is that almost all of NBA protest “movements” against the Narmada Dam were launched from Madhya Pradesh while Digvijay Singh was the Chief Minister. Just as Yadav’s AAP has been propped as a proxy of the Congress Party to counter Modi and sabotage his election as PM, the NBA was propped up by Diggy Raja to obstruct and sabotage the Narmada Dam Project in order to keep BJP-ruled Gujarat perennially water-starved. From the very start, Medha did not find any takers for her opposition to the Narmada project in Gujarat. She was thus hugely dependent on the MP government and international support. Apart from Yogendra Yadav, another AAP core team member, Prashant Bhushan, has been the prime legal luminary helping Medha Patkar and the Congress party in stalling the completion of Narmada project.
Since the foundation of the Narmada project had been laid by none other than Congress Party’s Jawahar Lal Nehru, Congressmen in Gujarat and outside could not oppose it openly. This was especially so since the Narmada project is widely perceived as the lifeline of Gujarat, cutting across party loyalties. Therefore, Congressmen dared not openly ask that the project be scrapped after the BJP came into power in Gujarat.
But Digvijay provided red carpet treatment to NBA protestors who launched their protests and dharnas from Madhya Pradesh even while he did nothing concrete to rehabilitate Narmada Dam oustees of MP. Most of them went to Gujarat where they were given handsome rehab package. But Medha never made Diggy Raja the target of her attacks, as she did Modi.
However, as soon as Digvijay Singh and Congress Party lost power in Madhya Pradesh, the NBA also started fizzling out. But the alliance between Yadav, Prashant and Medha forged way back in the 1990s has survived till date.
Yadav, a Lead Member of Anti-Vajpayee, Anti-Globalisation Brigade: In addition to NBA, Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav along with Sonia loyalist Aruna Roy were also lead members of the World Social Forum that was created for the specific purpose of opposing and subverting the agenda of economic reforms adopted by the Vajpayee-led NDA government. It involved liberalisation of the Indian economy by dismantling the license-quota Raj in India, which had kept India trapped in poverty. Since the Vajpayee government took liberalisation far more seriously than the Congress government under Narasimha Rao, the Anti-Globalisation Brigades (AGBs) led by Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and a whole army of foreign-funded NGOs was unleashed against the Vajpayee government by the Congress Party to delegitimise it as being quintessentially anti-poor and out to sell India to multinationals. This relentless propaganda played an important role in building a hostile atmosphere against the BJP, leading to the defeat of the NDA in 2004 despite the high popularity of Vajpayee as PM
The AGBs opposed foreign investments in India but themselves stayed tied to the apron strings of Western donor agencies. It was with the likes of Yadav, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy in mind that I wrote a long critique of the politics of AGBs in the Introduction to my book, “Deepening Democracy, Challenges of Governance and Globalisation” published by the Oxford University Press in 2004. The introductory chapter was written in 2003 when the AGBs were working at fever pitch with a view to discrediting the Vajpayee government. They all calmed down and lost their steam after the UPA came to power.
Here is a small extract from that critique written in 2003:
Till about the 1980s organized Left parties and intellectuals were seen as the main representatives of the working classes and rural poor. They exercised tremendous ideological influence in imposing a restrictive environment for economic activities. They were the prime supporters of a closed-door economy and statist controls. However, in the last two decades that space has increasingly come to be shared by a certain category of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that specialize in whipping up frenzied campaigns against liberalization of the Indian economy for which generous political and monetary support is available from certain Western donor agencies that work in close collaboration with their respective governments. According to government sources, the NGO sector received $3 billion in 2003 from various foreign sources. A substantial part of these funds are going to what I call, the Anti-Globalization Brigades (AGBs).
With these fabulous grants, AGBs among the NGOs are forever jet-setting from one exotic destination to another preaching to each other and to the friendly journalists about the need to protect our people from the evil ways of the West by keeping our country insulated from the global economy and the evil influences of Western culture. They seldom bother to explain how any economy can be kept ‘closed-door’ without a draconian bureaucracy and police establishment to prevent the flow of goods and capital from one country to another. For decades the mantra-chanting Leftists immobilized idealistic young people by telling them that no social problem could be solved without the workers of the world uniting under the ‘red flag’ to defeat the forces of world capitalism and capture state power. They actively discouraged their followers from finding concrete solutions to concrete problems and made rabble-rousing a substitute for all political activity. That fantasy never materialized because the working class refused to fall in line.
Thereafter, some of these disoriented Leftists have reinvented their politics and are now calling upon the NGOs of the world to unite under the aegis of the World Social Forum (WSF) with generous grants from aid organizations, and the governments of ‘capitalist-imperialist’ countries to defeat the forces of globalization! Once again they seek to channel the idealism of many dedicated young people toward bloated rhetoric so that they keep away from creative engagement with concrete problems in order to find workable solutions.
The entire thrust of AGB politics is to internationalize every local problem that comes to their notice. When there is a riot in Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat, many of them run to European capitals to give fiery speeches on human rights violations instead of being on the scene to protect those under attack or organize relief for them. They want global networks for themselves but insist the rest of us must live like frogs in a well and not be corrupted by the evil ways of the West. They often buy their cheese and chocolates from Switzerland and France but if they see Indian villagers buy a box of desi Britannia cheese or Amul chocolates or a packet of cheap Maggi noodles, they begin to have fits of anxiety over the increasing hold of the decadent consumer culture of the West among Indians…. There is not a single example in the world today of a completely closed-door economy which is also wealthy and successful. On the contrary, countries like Burma which are rich in natural resources and had relatively high standards of living a hundred years ago have been wrecked and impoverished by their authoritarian regimes blocking economic access to the world in the same way that the Soviet rulers led their economy to collapse. It is well-know that countries open to trade and investment grow faster than those that are not. North Korea was once richer than South Korea; after 50 years of hermit economics, it is now 16 times poorer.
West Discovers the Evils of Globalization So Late: It cannot be a coincidence that a strong movement against globalization and multinationals began to emerge in the West only in the last decade when the following new developments began to get consolidated:
1. The WTO regime added to the clout of Second and Third World economies by giving them the possibility of influencing decisions and seeking a level playing field. Many decisions on trade-related disputes have gone in favour of the developing world and against the attempts of First World countries’ imposing unfair terms on the former.
2. Multinational Corporations began shifting their manufacturing base to Asian countries in a big way, leading to flight of capital and job losses in First World countries. The fact that many MNCs owe little or no loyalty to nation-states and move to whichever countries they find profitable to operate from, has earned them the wrath of western professionals and trade union leaders who derogatively refer to them as ‘footloose’ companies.
3. There was no comparable criticism of MNCs as long as they merely sought export markets in Second and Third World countries. Dumping of MNC goods is beneficial for First World economies if the MNCs are based in the First World. However, ever since the MNCs started shifting their manufacturing base resulting in the flooding of western markets with ‘Made in Korea’, ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Mexico’ labels, there is legitimate panic in the First World against this reversal in the flow of goods and money….
When political parties in India hire buses, trucks, and people for political rallies where the poor are given some freebies, brought in from villages and slums as a show of strength by our netas, we tend to frown upon it as an example of political corruption and cynical manipulation of people. Likewise, we look down upon those who sell their votes to this or that party for a couple of hundred rupees or a bottle of liquor. All these are seen as signs of undermining our democracy. However, by contrast, we are failing to register the significance of a new kind of deluded or hired rallyist who has emerged on the international scene. Most of the self-styled radicals, who went and demonstrated against the WTO in Seattle and Rio de Janeiro or in Hyderabad, the site of the Asia Social Forum in 2002 or gathered at Mumbai for opposing economic reforms and emoting against globalization, have had their air tickets and per diem expenses paid for by a whole range of Western donor agencies and some European governments that are financing the politics of trade barriers and closing borders against the flow of goods and services from Third and Second World countries. It is dishonourable enough that the Anti-Globalization Brigades in the West want to fire their guns from the shoulders of people of impoverished nations by making out a case that the Third World countries would be devastated by freer trade regimes. But it is even more dishonourable that our self-styled radicals are happy at being thus used for defending the interests of First World farmers, industrial workers and professions and yet pretend that they are speaking on behalf of the impoverished farmers and the working poor of India.
No to Free Trade, Yes to Tied aid: Unfortunately, the very same AGBs who pant and fume at India opening up to foreign investments have very little objection to India being aid-dependent. They are in fact upset at the recent feeble attempts of the Indian government to lessen India’s aid dependence. The June 2003 announcement by the Finance Minister that the government is in the process of reviewing its position on external aid flows and that the country will no longer accept any ‘tied aid’ has apparently caused a great deal of panic among our aid-dependent NGOs…”
Sadly enough, the whole country has played a heavy price for the fact that the Vajpayee government did nothing to curb the increasing hold of foreign-funded NGOs in our politics. These NGOs had played no mean role in bringing UPA to power in 2004 after bringing down the NDA government. But the Vajpayee government did not grasp the enormity of the challenge they faced from the army of NGOs that mushroomed in India with the support of Western governments and donor agencies. Today, they have come to dominate political discourse through their deep links with the media and academia. Yogendra Yadav’s AAP is the latest player in this game. Under the pretence of fighting corruption, AAP has been propped up to subvert democracy and keep intact the stranglehold of corrupt mafias and international crime syndicates that have come to dominate Indian politics.