Sunday, February 19, 2012

UP Elections - Dangerous developments in Caste and Religious politics

Today one of my friends stopped me after a session in the afternoon and asked what you think about reservation. It was an unexpected question from her; I stopped for some time and let her continue to speak on the issue. She explained me about how people in her class (when she was in school and college) - well placed in society - enjoyed the fruits of reservation which she can’t even expect. As I explained my view I came to the ongoing campaign in UP political elections.

UP elections are already in progress. The biggest state of India by population, UP results used to strengthen or weaken the legs of Delhi throne. Contributing the biggest contingent of MPs to parliament UP holds the key for forming the Union government. Major state parties are already engaged in head to head fight. 2012 assembly elections are crucial for all the parties,

For Congress (INC),

* There is heavy linkage between the claims of Congress General Secretary for Premiership and the success in UP elections.
* For reducing the influence of West Bengal CM (who looks more on opposition than on government side) in central governments decisions congress need post strong results.
* Party desperately needs to succeed in UP which they lost around two decades back to achieve the dream of single party majority in parliament

For SP,

* Already out of power for a long time
* An indicator of the popularity of the new leadership
* Victory will open the chance for a new alliance with Congress in the centre (may be outside support).


* If not finished first, need to sit next 5 years in opposition, by this time there may not be any statue of left in the roads of UP.
* Severe setback for the plan to expand the party influence to other states and to Delhi.
* If failed, new government will not leave any possible chance to attack (court cases) the party for the next five years.


* A failure will be more than the party can suffer.
* Without winning the Ganga belt the chance for BJP to regain Delhi is very distant.
* Questions will rise against the current leadership
* Allies will become stronger and assertive and party may be force to accommodate the ally’s wishes.
* If the party is not able use anti-incumbency factor and numerous corruption scandals then they may have to forget the possibility of regaining the Delhi in 2014.

Disappearing lines between Caste/Religion and Politics

But does the UP election represent the victory of democracy? I am rather worried about the thinning separation between caste/religion and politics. What worrying me more is after every election this line of separation is becoming thinner. When Nitish Kumar came to power on developmental agenda it was a consolation for the lovers of democracy, after all there was break from caste politics in Bihar; but UP crushed all those hopes.

Now-a-days the computational efficiency of various parties is spending on determining the caste equation of various assembly seats and determining the candidates based on that. How a person reached in assembly? They have to be elected by the people from an assembly seat. What motivates the people to vote for a particular candidate? Answers can be his /her policies, his /her developmental agenda, his /her social views, his /her economic views, personal relationship with the candidate etc.

So what will happen is this allegiance is replaced by caste/ religion? What if parties are fielding candidates because the majority of the voters in that assembly seat are from a particular caste or community? Asking the people to vote for him/her because the candidate is from your caste/community, vote for him/her because he will give you more reservation (if one party offered 9% another will offer 18%). The black and white question to the voters is something like this - what is the problem if you don’t know him/her what is the problem if he/she had a criminal past? What is the problem if he/she previously created a big hole in the government exchequer? Vote for him because he belongs to your caste. Don’t you want to see a person from your caste sit in the assembly? Well, whoever thinks caste/religious politics is good tell me why Pakistan and Bangladesh are separated in 1971? Why they were not able to continue together?


These are dangerous games; the one which should not be played. These manoeuvres may lead to some temporary victory but long term losses. In the end people may start to think more on religion/ caste lines on every problem than going for rational thought process.

Candidates and parties should not try to appeal to the religious/caste spirits of the people. In the same way people should allow themselves to be manipulated by anyone who mixes politics with religion/ caste. Election Commission should ensure this. In democracy religion and politics are separate and should be like that, the former should not enter in to the realm of the latter.


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