Elections in India are fought with an eye on getting votes on the caste system which has its roots firmly fixed in the Indian social order.
Elections in India are fought with an eye on getting votes on the caste system which has its roots firmly fixed in the Indian social order. Side by side with caste system the question of reservations has become a major attraction for creating a vote bank during elections.
Political power, economic prosperity and social status were the exclusive privilege of the upper castes. This peculiar discriminatory caste system in India led to the growth of only a section of the society dominating the rest of the populace by depriving them of economic opportunities and equal privileges.
This led to the lack of unity among the Hindus who were divided into the Harijans, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Backward Classes and depressed Classes. All these sections of the Hindu society attribute the existence of their poverty to their exploitation by the upper castes that deprived them of equal opportunities in pursuing education and engaging in professions of their choice.
A law was passed to preserve the rights granted to the Scheduled Castes and also to remove the notorious custom of untouchability. Thus the caste factor became an important item of political agenda.
Reservations were introduced for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes to protect their interests. Seats were reserved in. educational institutions and in job opportunities.
Reservation in educational institutions became essential as the Scheduled caste people had been deprived of the right of acquiring knowledge and education since long and it would be impossible for them to compete with the upper classes. Moreover, reserved constituencies were formulated to grant them adequate representation in political setup.
Article 334 of the Constitution makes a provision for the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and nomination of Anglo-Indians for a period of fifty years from the commencement of the Constitution. Thus, caste-based politics have become an integral part of the Indian polity.
The reservation policy is seriously resented by the upper caste Hindus. The caste system is responsible for social stratification and class distinctions. Caste-based politics cannot be wiped out due to peculiar social structure of India. Reservations, which is known as “Protective discrimination” is termed as ‘Reverse Discrimination’ by the upper Caste Hindus.
It is a shame that our politicians play such dirty games to ensure that their vote-banks remain intact. This new bill if passed will override Article 335 of the Constitution that says that the claims of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes have to be balanced with maintaining efficiency in administration. It was based on this that the Supreme Court overruled Mayawati’s attempts to bring in such a rule in Uttar Pradesh.
In a country like India, where economic disparities are large, the government should ideally take steps to help the economically disadvantaged. With improvements in technology and better identification of the needs of citizens through Aadhar and other schemes, the government can definitely do a better job at identifying and helping the economically disadvantaged (of all castes and creed) climb up the socio-economic ladder. We as citizens should also do our duties and be moral and not run for fake caste and income certificates. The enlightened youth of our country should take a pledge that they will not misuse the benefits given to them. It is only when we grow above such petty caste based issues that India can progress and develop on all fronts.
Now a very interesting question that has been posed is that when caste acts as a political faction and votes are caste in favour of a particular candidate on caste basis even then caste retain its character as a caste of becomes a political faction, thereby defying caste traditions.
Such a deep impact of caste on politics does not appear to be very healthy. If an unholy alliance between caste and politics continues then, it is feared that at one stage, security of state even might be in danger. G.S. Ghurye has rightly observed that, "Unholy alliance of caste and politics will surely jeopardies not only the peace but even the security of the country."
It is therefore; very essential that such an unholy alliance between caste and politics should be brought to an end as early as possible. It is however, fully well realised that only legal provisions will not serve the purpose. For this the psychology and thinking 0f masses will have to be changed.
The people will have to realise that the caste must be sacrificed for the sake of purity in administration and nepotism is to be wiped out both for national interests and security.
Time has come to question these deceptive political parties and leaders, whether the triumph of their parties is realistic or not? Lot of caste based political parties sprung to life across the length and breadth of independent India. No state has been vulnerable to this practice. Caste based political parties have initiated a brutal process of concentrating on the large vote bank of a particular caste. It’s disgraceful for every contender to the Parliament to claim their victory as a rational and satisfying to every voter in their constituency. Why are political parties trying to bank on support base of a particular caste? What made the political parties to opt candidates based on the caste?
Though Indian National Congress succeeded in keeping all the sections of the community under its umbrella for a couple of decades, by early 70’s caste based politics have sprung to life. From then on we have seen a vital change in the way the political parties approached the Indian voter. A particular section of the society when deprived of the progress and government aid, are left with not much choice other than to choose a candidate from their lot who can raise their issues at the national level. Most of the political parties during 80’s and 90’s succeeded in representing their section and decipher their tribulations. Almost all the sections considered to be backward have succeeded in drawing the attention of the ruling party to unravel their concerns. This is truly a positive sign to the political arena. But with time political parties got side tracked from their actual motto and started to indulge themselves in cheap political tricks.
Now the political situation in the country is very grim. If we analyze the manifestos of political parties in 2009 general elections, the agenda revolved around wooing the various sections of the society. Looks like this general election have witnessed more number of caste based political parties than the previous ones. We have also witnessed political leaders making inflammatory statements in open meetings. The election commission has succeeded in arresting the political parties from crossing limits to some extent but it could not wipe them out completely. Caste based politics are surely a negative phenomenon to the Indian political arena. Political parties and leaders should understand that caste based politics might act as a hindrance to the nations development.
One irony of Indian politics is that its modern secular democracy has enhanced rather than reduced the political salience of traditional forms of social identity such as caste. Part of the explanation for this development is that India's political parties have found the caste-based selection of candidates and appeals to the caste-based interests of the Indian electorate to be an effective way to win popular support. More fundamental has been the economic development and social mobility of those groups officially designated as Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. Accounting for 52 and 15 percent of the population, respectively, the Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes, or Dalits as they prefer to be called, constitute a diverse range of middle, lower, and outcaste groups who have come to wield substantial power in most states. Indeed, one of the dramas of modern Indian politics has been the Backward Classes and Dalits' jettisoning of their political subordination to upper castes and their assertion of their own interests.
The Backward Classes are such a substantial constituency that almost all parties vie for their support. For instance, the Congress (I) in Maharashtra has long relied on Backward Classes' backing for its political success. The 1990s have seen a growing number of cases where parties, relying primarily on Backward Classes' support, often in alliance with Dalits and Muslims, catapult to power in India's states. Janata Dal governments in Bihar and Karnataka are excellent examples of this strategy. An especially important development is the success of the Samajwadi Party, which under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav won the 1993 assembly elections in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, relying almost exclusively on Backward Classes and Muslim support in a coalition with the Dalit-supported BSP.
Though casteism in traditional sense in weakening in India, though the leader of our country have proclaimed time and again the caste is menace to our national life, caste plays an important role in Indian Politics. Adult franchise and Panchayati raj have given new opportunities to castes. Numerically large castes have become important pressure groups in local as well as state politics.
Unfortunately, in this country elections are fought and won on the basis of caste. Candidates contesting elections seek support from their castes. These leaders, thus elected maintain casteism even after election by showing special treatment to their caste members. Political Parties in India sponsor candidates having social base, which is nothing but the numerical strength of a caste of candidate in the constituency.
Leaders at the village level cultivate ministers for privileges and for a variety of favor. The ministers in turn need the help of village leaders during elections. It seems tot be accepted principle that, in the state cabinet at nay rate, each major caste should have a minister. This principle is in the village Panchayat as well. Voting very often son caste basis. The local politics in village is dominated by caste. Each caste wants to get maximum power in the village set up. The groupism in rural politics is centered around mostly on castes and to some extent on class and other factors.
In Karnataka state politics there is rivalry between Okkaligas and Lingayats, the two leading present castes. In Andhra Pradesh the chief contesting castes are Reddies and Kamas, in Bihar, Bhumidars, Kayasth and Rajput.
Dravida Munnetra Kazngam (D.M.K) had arises as a non-Brahmin party of break the Brahmin cal dominance in Tamilnadu state politics. At present D.M.K and A.D.M.K are two non-Brahmin political parties in Tamilnadu and both the parties are in politically advantageous position in comparison with other political parties such as Congress and Communist in that state.
The highest expression of caste based politics is found in Bihar and U.P. is even today. The traditional caste rivalry between the Rajput, Kayastha and Bhumindar is found today among the political parties in Bihar.
Caste cannot be criterion to help the backward classes to come up because it is astrictive and because it helps powerful members of the castes to exploit the concessions for their benefits. Any attempt to exclude the advanced backward caste from backward castes appears impossible, because the advanced backward castes will desire to be in the list; as they are politically powerful their claim cannot be laid aside by any democratic government.
Although the politics in India cannot be explained entirely in terms of caste, caste is an important element in the politics. The caste influences political activity from Panchayat right up to Parliament. While the Caste System is breaking down in social and cultural fields; conflicts between castes are intensified by party politics.
The Supreme Court had tried in the earnest sense to provide reservations only to those backward classes who are in need of it by eliminating the so-called creamy layer from the privilege of enjoying reservation. But on the other hand, all other communities other than Scheduled Castes. Tribes and Backward classes are trying to procure the same privilege under the label of other backward classes (OBCs).
Thus people belonging to various castes and sub-castes in India are trying to inter into the arena of reservations. So the politics of reservations in ending discrimination or perpetuating discrimination due to various trends in recent times cannot be definitely determined.
Let us think clearly and hope that the purpose of reservations will be ultimately to extend reservations only to uplift the really backward classes irrespective of caste or creed and to establish a secular, casteless, socialist and egalitarian society.
Siddhartha Shankar Mishra,