Though little media attention has gone to SP spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari, who is contesting from Bihar, but he is only behind Kanhaiya Kumar and Atishi in the
The little media attention that has gone to the election for the Karakat Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar has been focused on it being former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s seat. The Samajwadi Party’s (SP) presence in the electoral contest in Bihar, and in this seat, has similarly escaped much of the media gaze. Ghanshyam Tiwari, SP’s national spokesperson, is contesting from Karakat, which goes to the polls on 19 May in the 7th phase.
Despite not getting much media coverage, there is one arena in which Tiwari has emerged a winner: in raising funds through the crowdfunding platform
The Top Five Fundraisers
The CPI’s candidate for Begusarai, Kanhaiya Kumar, was the first to raise Rs 70 lakh on the Our Democracy platform. Soon after, the AAP’s candidate for East Delhi, Atishi, also raised Rs 70 lakh. As of 11 May, Tiwari has raised Rs 27.19 lakh. Three of the six most successful campaigns on the platform
Dalit-Adivasi-OBCs are behind
Several Dalit, Adivasi and OBC leaders have also attempted to raise funds on the Our Democracy platform. These campaigns though have failed to reach the same heights. For example, the Bhim Army which is widely popular among Dalits in
Only two campaigns among Dalit-Bahujan leaders have fared relatively better. These are the campaigns for Rohith Vemula’s colleague Vijay Kumar Pedapudi, a BSP candidate in the Andhra Pradesh assembly election, which raised close to Rs 4 lakh, and the CPI (Marxist-Leninist)’s candidate for Arah, Raju Yadav, which raised close to Rs 3 lakh. Vijay Kumar’s candidacy was highlighted in the media due to his association with Rohith Vemula, and a strong social media campaign among Bahujans was waged in favour of Raju Yadav’s campaign.
Caste/Class based Social Capital
What could be the basis for this disparity between funds raised by Dalit-Adivasi-OBC campaigners and those from the so-called upper castes? One possible explanation could be the popularity of the respective leaders or their political campaigns on and off social media. However, the relatively unknown Ghanshyam Tiwari is among the top three fundraisers, while Bhim Army, which has been in the news for the past two years, was able to raise only Rs 6000.
From Social Capital to Economic Capital
The disparity can be explained by considering the campaigners’ personal and social networks, which is formed on the basis of their caste. This is how Kanhaiya Kumar, of the Bhumihar community, was able to become the first to raise Rs 70 lakh on Our Democracy while presenting himself as the son of a poor mother. The head of a famous chain of coaching centre was the top contributor to his campaign, putting in Rs 5 lakh. Atishi who also raised Rs 70 lakh, is of the Rajput community, and her community identity has been aggressively projected by AAP leader and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Ghanshyam Tiwari, Dilip Pandey, and Raghav Chadha’s caste identities are also evident. AAP is known for originating from an NGO culture and that might explain why they are better at crowdfunding. It also shows that the same kind of people dominates India’s NGO sector too.
The difference between social and financial background
Atishi, Ghanshyam Tiwari and Raghav Chadha have all studied at premier institutes abroad. Tiwari has worked in a multinational company. Pandey was earlier a Hong-Kong based IT consultant. These four are clearly of a well off financial and social elite class. It is also evident that the donors to their campaigns are also from similar elite social and financial classes. Several donations of over Rs 1 lakh were made to their campaigns. Kanhaiya’s campaign received Rs 5 lakh from a single donor. It is clear that members of their own castes and classes have supported these campaigners.
This is a clear indication of how social capital is based on caste and class identity. While large capitalists huge debts are written off to little outrage, relief for farmers, or programmes to support those of the deprived classes face the anger of the same elites who fund the political campaigns of the likes of Atishi, Kanhaiya, Pandey, Chadha and Tiwari.
It is evident so far that the most successful political fundraisers on
Translated from Hindi by Abir Dasgupta. Read the original Hindi version here.