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Casteist Challenge

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They claim to be inspired by socialism but are actually little more than caste based political parties. Some might say that is what this much vaunted ideology has been reduced to at the present. The original outfit, the Bahujan Samaj Party, did actually attempt to construct a political platform based on social justice, which sought to include members of all castes, but has not fared well recently at the hustings due to strategic mistakes made by its Supremo, Mayawati.

On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party in UP, the RJD and JD(U) in Bihar, along with a number of smaller easily forgettable outfits have dropped all pretence of being anything but representatives of specific castes. Unable to win elections on their own, their primary effort is to build local coalitions with Muslims, who still remain the other consolidated votebank.

The realisation is growing, however, that this policy does not have much of a future, particularly as the AIMIM has been making enough inroads among the Muslims to upset electoral calculations. Also, with the less dominant OBCs beginning to benefit from BJP’s Hindutva consolidation, the idea is now to demand ‘proportional’ representation in reservations to keep the flock united. This is exactly why a caste based survey has been launched in Bihar – Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s last bid to stay relevant. He is also pandering to the RJD’s even more radical approach. Once the numbers come up to their expectations, it is only a step away from demanding, even legislating, reservations beyond the present fifty percent limit mandated by the Supreme Court.

This is obviously a further blow to meritocracy, but the idea is to accommodate all OBCs so that the dependence on Muslim votes is reduced. Ironically, the likes of Lalu Yadav have strongly opposed reservation for women in the assemblies and parliament. It must also be remembered that it does not end there – with government jobs petering out, the next target will be the private sector. In fact, social media has recently seen rising calls for ‘caste inclusiveness’ in the Indian cricket team. This takes away from the genuine achievements of those that have made it purely on the basis of merit.

This may have originally been the means to challenge the domination of the Congress and, now, the BJP, but the consequences are unlikely to be good for the nation. It will further ‘regionalise’ politics to the point that fractured verdicts of the kind seen in several countries – such as presently in Israel – will keep the nation from functioning as one in the larger task of development and progress.