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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

Caste groups demand their share as BJP, Cong finalise Rajasthan poll lists

Ahead of the December 7 Rajasthan assembly election, at least six caste groups have held meetings or press meets to demand candidates from their community get due consideration from both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

rajasthan-elections Updated: Nov 02, 2018 09:13 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Leaders of various caste groups have been demanding that the BJP and the Congress give them adequate tickets for the December 7 Rajasthan assembly elections (File photo)
Leaders of various caste groups have been demanding that the BJP and the Congress give them adequate tickets for the December 7 Rajasthan assembly elections (File photo)(HT Photo)

As leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress work over their lists of candidates for the December 7 Rajasthan assembly elections, caste groups in the state are exercising their political muscle to seek their share of tickets.

At least six caste groups held meetings or press conferences in Jaipur this month to demand tickets commensurate with their numbers from the two principal parties.

The Meenas, under the banner of the Akhil Bhartiya Meen Sangh, wrote to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah on October 19 to demand 15 tickets from each. The group claimed that Meenas comprised 7.5% of the state’s 13.5% scheduled tribe (ST) population. In Rajasthan, 25 seats in the 200-member assembly are reserved for STs.

In 2013, the BJP fielded 16 Meenas, of whom 10 won. The Congress gave tickets to 17 Meenas but only two were elected to the assembly. The two parties also respectively fielded 12 and 13 Bhil candidates, who are in the ST category.

On October 21, the Akhil Bhartiya Bairwa Mahasabha demanded 11 seats at a press conference in Jaipur. The organisation of Bairwas, a scheduled caste (SC), said its members should get two tickets in Jaipur and one each in Alwar, Bundi, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dausa, Kota, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur and Tonk.

“There are about 1.7 million Bairwas in Rajasthan. In 2013, the BJP fielded eight candidates from our caste, and the Congress gave tickets to six. Four won on BJP tickets. This year, we are demanding 11 seats,” said the Mahasabha’s national president, Hari Narayan Bairwa.

There are 34 seats reserved for SCs in Rajasthan.

The Mali community, to which former chief minister Ashok Gehlot belongs, has demanded tickets from 20 assembly constituencies, where, according to the Rajasthan Mali (Saini) Mahasabha, they are at least 25,000 in number. “We are at least 200,000 in 15 Lok Sabha constituencies,” said the organisation’s 65-year-old president, Chuttan Lal Saini. “We have given our list of candidates to both the Congress and the BJP.”

In 2013, the Congress gave tickets to five Mali candidates, and the BJP and the BSP to four each. Four of these candidates won.

The Jats, the Kumhars/Prajapatis and the Brahmins, too, have held press conferences to demand their share of tickets from both the parties, in a process that experts have termed commodification of a democratic process by caste groups.

“Caste has become a political tool. Initially the political parties used caste, now the caste groups are using political parties to cement their identities and consciousness,” said Rajiv Gupta, former head of sociology at the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur.

“This is a dangerous sign as far as India’s democracy is concerned. The caste groups are trying to convert India into a republic of castes.”

Another political expert, Sanjeev Bhanawat, said political parties have been playing with religion and caste, and have used the two to enter the fray. “Caste groups have started feeling that if they use this pressure tactic, their share in politics can improve. By improving their share, they can do things for the favour of their caste,” he added.

Bairwa agreed that doing politics of caste was unhealthy for a democracy. “But when political parties say they will consider caste equations, too, while deciding tickets, we feel compelled to make our claim,” he said.

BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek said in all elections, communities seek tickets on the basis of their population and that is their right. “They have affection for the BJP, so accordingly have expectations. BJP workers work in all communities and sections; those who are eligible and winnable are considered during ticket distribution. We ensure representation to all communities,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said, “During elections, such demands are raised by communities and there is nothing wrong in it. The Congress has always taken everyone along from all communities and sections of society.”

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 22:11 IST