Few weeks are left in the assembly elections of 2022. The complexity of the current situation is somewhat signifying the political hustle, with so many candidates routinely crossing over to another parties.
Quite a number of defections have been seen up till now, interestingly from a dominant party to the blatant opposition, can potentially swing voters.
Although, the experts suggest that its unlikely to radically change the political dynamic of such a populous state. Prominent political parties have been trying to build a wide-ranging and inclusive caste coalition, which includes OBCs and other middle ranking castes who have remain disadvantaged in comparison to the upper castes. Some economists have called it “new welfarism of India’s right.”
However, one cannot overlook the socio-political side of this coin of casteism. Despite of rapid modernization, the caste system remains intact and highly pertinent.
Hence, the world’s oldest surviving form of social stratification is the Indian Caste System.
Surprisingly, ones fate depends upon their ancestor’s place in the society and hence it is sealed from the time of birth, the structure which divides the Hindus in rigid hierarchical order.
THE CASTE STRUCTURE: VARNA SYSTEM
According to the ancient structure, on the topmost pedestal were the Brahmans who were majorly intellectuals and believed to have come from Lord Brahma’s head. Then comes the Kshatriyas, the rulers and warriors, supposedly, from the arms of Lord Brahma.
Third were the Vaishyas or the traders. The last and the least were the Shudras, supposedly from Lord Brahma’s feet, therefore they ought to do the menial jobs.
These four castes got further divided into 3000 castes and 25,000 sub-classes. No wonder why the caste system has been referred to as an embodiment of the principle of inequality in the society.
There is a ruckus in classifying that who shall be considered as the educationally and socially disadvantaged – Other Backward Classes.
Caste and pre- independent India and post- independent India
It somewhat remained unchanged throughout the centuries, as people were caged into a fixed social order. With the onset of British rule and modern education, which brought in discourse on rights, liberty and equality. This significantly changed the atmosphere.
By then, people like Jyotiba Phule, SavitriBai Phule, Ambedkar, M G Ranade, Narayana Guru, Periyar Naicker etc., started the extensive struggle for recognition and safeguarding their rights.
On the contrary, in the post- independent India, leaders like Nehru believed that political democracy and caste cannot exist together. Similarly, Ambedkar argued that “you cannot build anything on the foundation of caste.” Even then caste did not disappear from the politics, rather it has been used as a tool to mobilize votes in elections.
Caste as the most confused knot of almost all the social problems. Caste has become a salient feature of the highly competitive political system. As a result, it exploits all possible sorts of allegiance of a society to consolidate power. Caste and politics are very closely related.
Hypothetically, if any party tries to mobilize voters through the caste-based campaigning, they might gather a sufficient number of votes and consolidate power. However, the caste divide in a society remains intact and disparity remains the same since the members of a caste are now divided on the basis of ideological affiliations.
Despite this, one can’t deny that politicization of caste has somewhat benefited the lower-castes and other backward groups.
The arrangements of various provisions in the Indian Constitution like reservation of quota of higher education, public sector jobs etc. under article 16 (4). While the quotas provide wider arena of representation in parliament, the very system highlights the caste identity and pave the way for political assertion in the respective bodies.
Propaganda of caste in election process
Hypothetically speaking, even though such mobilizations are successful some cases, still it fails to deliver a society which is just, inclusive and egalitarian.
Casteism influencing election and democracy, is in itself a dynamic process, where the parties or candidates seek the support of voters by projecting themselves as an advocate of their socio- economic interests.
And the latter cast their votes in support of the candidate, on the basis of ideological affiliations instead of real issues they continue to suffer once this great Indian Festival withers away. Ideology driven voters, then, don’t take the presented manifesto or other merits into consideration.
As a result, people vested in narrow ideological affiliations, lose the sight of broader interest of the nation and social good. Furthermore, it ends up, being the precursor of caste- based violence.
Nepotism is questionable phenomena in every realm. When we do not recruit or appoint an officer on the basis of their caste and class identity, then why are we expected to choose our representative on the merit of caste identity?
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy”, Abraham Lincoln.