Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: Caste arithmetic gives way to development equation
Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: Caste arithmetic gives way to development equationUpdated: Dec 07, 2018 18:31 IST
Caste equations that once dominated elections in Rajasthan seem to have given ground, at least in the coming elections, to two other factors — development, and anti-incumbency against the Vasundhara Raje-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
The Rajputs have traditionally been BJP supporters and their bête noir, the Jats, have backed the Congress; The tribal community, the Meenas, have been with the BJP and the cattle herders, the Gujjars, with the Congress. The Meghwal community and Muslims have traditionally aligned together, but have swung towards both parties.
These castes dominate the electoral landscape of Rajasthan and constitute about 70% of the total 42 million voters in the state.
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“Caste plays its part in Rajasthan politics, but its role has diminished in the recent past with more awareness and better education. The younger generation believes less in this caste divide,” said political analyst Narayan Bareth, a former faculty member of Rajasthan University. For instance, he said, in 2013, the BJP won from predominantly Jat or Gujjar constituencies once considered Congress bastions.
There are over 2 million first time voters who will exercise their franchise on December 7.
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Mota Ram Punia, a Jat in Barmer’s Gagariya, said caste is second to sentiment. “Maharani [Raje] has not even visited us once,” he said, sitting next to a local Rajput, Ramendra Singh at a tea stall. Singh said that the issues for all are the same — jobs, water, roads and good money for farm produce. “People voted on caste lines when I was young, about 20 years ago, but now not more than 10-15%of people vote on caste lines,” Singh said.
In Nathdwara, a town 20 km from Udaipur with a sizeable population of Meenas and Gujjars, the sentiment was no different. “We want quota in OBC reservation so that jobs are assured,” said Amit Gujjar, who had come from Alwar to campaign for the Congress’ Brahmin leader CP Joshi.
About 320 km away in Pachpadra in Barmer, Bharu Ram Meena said caste pride does not guarantee water and jobs. “For me, a government job for my son and assurance of decent price for my farm produce matters,” he said. Hanuman Beniwal, who recently floated the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and has fielded about 60 candidates, has openly spoken about Jat pride in community dominated constituencies like Nagaur, Barmer, Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu.
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His rallies have attracted cro- wds in the Jat-dominated constituencies and may well make a difference between the winner and loser there. His supporters admitted that he is more of a spoiler than a serious contender, a claim denied by Beniwal. This election has also witnessed less prominence being given to caste-based leaders such as Rajput leader Lokendra Singh Kalvi, Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsala and Meena leader Kirori Lal Meena.
Kalvi, who led protests against release of Bollywood movie Padmaavat, held a show of strength rally in Jaipur in October, but it failed as a launchpad for his political aspirations with fewer than 500 people turning up.
Mahendra Singh Ralawata, a Rajput, contesting from Ajmer north on a Congress ticket, said his caste gives him a head start of 10,000 votes but can’t ensure win.
First Published: Dec 07, 2018 07:41 IST