Every party has one: a Brahmin drafting canny political strategy ……

A fellow Brahmin once lamented to the late V.N. Gadgil that the community’s hold over political power was declining. Gadgil—an lse-educated barrister who was a three-time MP, Union minister and Congress spokesperson—just smiled. “In Maharashtra,” he told his interlocutor, “we solved that problem three centuries ago; the Brahmins (Peshwas) allowed the Marathas to rule while they wielded the real power.”

Indeed, over the years, as democracy took root in the country, and upper caste-led social combinations crumbled to make way for OBC/SC-dominated groupings, sheer numbers became a key political determinant.

The political clout of the Brahmins, just five per cent of the population, withered. The current Lok Sabha may have 50 Brahmin MPs, 9.17 per cent of the strength of the house, but it is down from 19.91 per cent in 1984. Only four of the UPA’s 30 cabinet ministers and just three CMs—West Bengal’s Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Uttarakhand’s B.C. Khanduri and Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit (by marriage)—are Brahmins.

But even though Brahmins are no longer as visible on the political landscape, a closer look at our parties, across the political spectrum, throws up an interesting insight. Most of the country’s political strategists and backroom boys—those running the country’s political war rooms, advising party leaders, drawing up electoral battle plans, negotiating tricky alliances, crunching numbers or just working on slogans and spin—are from among the ‘twice-born’. Evidently, Gadgil’s ‘Maharashtra model’ is not just an apocryphal story.

Of course, these tacticians do not conform to a single pattern. Some, like BSP MP Satish Chandra Mishra or BJD MP Pyarimohan Mohapatra, are almost the alter egos of their party bosses, UP chief minister Mayawati and Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik. Others, such as BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, have political ambitions of their own, the tactician’s role just a stepping stone. Those like former Union minister of state for power and commerce Jairam Ramesh are just backroom boys, useful to the leadership, no more. Yet others, like CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury, perform a key function in the party, their importance lying in the role they play rather than proximity to a single leader. Of course, heavyweights like NCP’s Sharad Pawar or RJD’s Laloo Prasad Yadav are “political” master strategists themselves. They consult a variety of sources—Brahmins in spirit, if not by birth.

So, who are these men—they all seem to be men, though five political parties are headed by women—so critical to political parties, both in war and peace?

Smita Gupta, Outlook India, March 30, 2009