Stop playing the caste card in elections

Updated on Feb 28, 2012 03:19 PM IST

Whenever there is election in the country, caste appears to the fore as a factor to inter-play in the whole electioneering.

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Whenever there is election in the country, caste appears to the fore as a factor to inter-play in the whole electioneering. After the Lok Sabha election of 1952, there was a debate on the issue. And, subsequently, in 1957 election, this thinking got reinforced. Political thinkers and intellectuals realized that our democracy was under threat with the rise of 'casteism' in national and local elections.

There has been unanimity between politicians and social reformers that for a succeeding democracy, caste system needed to be abolished.

Nehru said caste had no place in modern social formation. Socio-political thinker Dr. BR Ambedkar sparked off, excited and invoked the nation to annihilate caste from Indian society. Himself witness to inhuman wrongs done to the social pariahs, he termed caste a kind of graded in-equality and rejected it downright.

To identify the backward community in the country for determination of quota percentage, our present National Sample Survey Census has undertaken the caste counting. This is simply a deviation from the standard census, as the similar proposal made before the 2001 census had been shut down, and subsequently, the Registrar General of India also disapproved it in 2004 and 2005. The Congress too had not supported the caste based census then saying, "we see no reason for any deviation from the standard census". The BJP and CPI (M) were against it; only the regional parties were for it. In fact, the very base of giving reservation on caste, community or religion basis is discriminatory, as the deprived ones are ever present in every community. And so, truly speaking, it is only the economic criteria that stand most justifiable here, in the modern right-based democracy that we are striving for. Further, the scope and area of castes, sub castes and sub-sub castes in India are too large to get encompassed for appropriate classification and counting. Even if some data are released, it will be subject to inter and intra-caste disputes and conflicts for sake of entitlement to a bigger size of reservation-cake. So, no doubt, caste has been a pre-eminent Indian reality, but then let us not forget its far-reaching baneful ramifications that still exist. Despite Gandhi's fight for removal of untouchability, it has still not totally disappeared. The caste-based manual scavenging, with all its curse, is still in vogue. Election Commission of India's June-2011 survey in UP reveals 30% voters say politics of caste should be discouraged. Voters now search for merit in the candidate. Let politicians realize the fact and match it with action.

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