GS Mains Model Question & Answer : Describe the impact of casteism upon the Indian electoral system. Comment

 GS Mains Model Question & Answer : Describe the impact of casteism upon the Indian electoral system. Comment

Q. Describe the impact of casteism upon the Indian electoral system. Comment

Model Answer:

Describe the impact of casteism upon the Indian electoral system.

Caste began to play an important role after independence as its involvement in politics increased. The fact that it existed as easily identifiable social cluster of people made it an easy object of political mobilization by political parties in their quest for political support and votes. While the political parties sought to exploit caste for its own electoral purposes, caste groups by making politics their sphere of activity got a chance to assert their identity and bargain for benefits and position in society. Thus, caste and politics interaction has been a two-way process.
In politicizing the castes, the caste associations played a crucial role. Caste associations were quasi-voluntary associations in the sense that its membership was open only to the individuals of the caste community. These associations were formed to secure economic benefits or educational openings or for more clearly political purpose of uniting to fight the hegemony of the upper castes. In either case, involvement in politics was considered necessary for securing the specific purpose for which they were formed. Thus, once formed on the basis of caste identity, caste associations went on to acquire non-caste functions. In electoral politics the role of the caste in politics has become powerful. This can be seen at all levels of the political process of the country. All political parties tend to give party ticket to candidates for contesting elections from amongst the numerically or otherwise dominant caste in every constituency. Major caste groups get representation in the council of ministers. Be it elections, political appointments or even formation of political parties, caste has been the major consideration.

The influence of caste, however, varies depending upon the level of election and the region. Its influence is far more at the local and state-level political process than at the national level. Caste plays greater role in the rural than in urban areas. In the rural areas and at the local level, the smallness of consituency and the fact that there is greater face to face interactions account for the strong influence of caste in politics. Since independence two factors have especially brought the issue of caste in Indian politics into sharp focus. These are
(1) the introduction of universal adult franchise and
(2) the constitutional provisions for protective discrimination in favour of the backward classes.

The introduction of universal adult franchise brought a very large section of the populace, who had been hitherto excluded on account of property qualification to vote, into the arena of electoral politics. This made the task of mobilizing votes enormously difficult for the political parties. The daunting task was, however, made easy when political parties relied upon castes to get their votes. In the process castes’ involvement in politics deepened with every election in India,

In addition to the enlarged arena of electoral politics, the constitutional provisions for protective discrimination also provided the ground for castes to play a significant role in politics.
One may note here that protective discrimination was meant for three categories of people - the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the OBC — collectively called as the backward classes. Of these three categories, the SCs and STs were easily identifiable and-there was a large measure of consensus on the need and the desireability of having reservations for them. But the case of the OBCs was different.
Since Independence two types of caste politics can be discerned. The first type involved the caste groups clamouring either for being recognised as OBC by the state governments or those already recognised for getting a higher quota in the reservations. The decision of the State governments to appoint Backward classes Commission from time to time provided the occasion for such caste politics to flourish.
The second type of caste politics, involved mobilization of social and political forces for and against reservations for the OBC based solely on caste criteria. The extent of castes involvement in politics can be appreciated by noting a simple fact that over 50% of the populace belong to the category of the OBCs.

While the first type of caste politics sought to influence the reservation policy of the state government, the second type of caste politics was aimed to resist the reservation policy of the central government.
The reservation issue thus, provided a fertile ground for castes to play an active role in politics.

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