Has Indian Politics Changed ?

Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
Justice Markandey Katju

The former Professor of JNU, Sudha Pai, has written an article published in thewire.in titled ‘ Rise of Tejashwi Yadav signals a significant change in Bihar politics ‘. In this article, she states that caste alignments alone do not matter now in Indian politics, and factors like unemployment, price rise, etc have also become important. She referred to Tejashwi Yadav’s highlighting of these other factors in his speeches during the Bihar election campaign.

I beg to differ from Prof Sudha Pai.


India is still a semi-feudal country, and most people here are still with backward feudal mindsets, full of casteism and communalism. Indian elections in most states are still largely on the basis of caste and religion. Most voters even now only see caste and religion when they go to vote, and are wholly indifferent to the poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, price rise, corruption, etc.

The relevant factor in most Indian elections is what may be called the Caste Religion Alliance (CRA). Since no caste by itself has more than 10-12% of the state’s population, and since to win an election one must get over 30% votes, an alliance of castes, and often also a religious group like Muslims (except for the BJP, which does not get Muslim votes )  is required for this purpose.


To give an example, after Independence in 1947, Congress used to sweep the elections in most states for decades, relying on the CRA of upper castes ( about 16-17% in many North Indian states ), Muslims ( about 16% in UP and Bihar ), and Scheduled Castes ( about 20% ). Later, SCs formed their own party ( BSP ), and after the demolition of Babri masjid in December 1992 most Muslims left the Congress and joined SP in UP and RJD in Bihar, and upper castes went over to the BJP. So Congress is left with very few votes, which accounts for its poor performance in Bihar.


What has been happening is that the caste and religious alliances (CRA) sometimes change, but still the relevant factors in elections are caste and religion, not unemployment, price rise, lack of healthcare, corruption, etc. as Sudha Pai contends.


In the Bihar elections, upper-caste Hindus (about 16% of the population) voted for the NDA (which professes to represent Hindus ), as also a large section of the non-Yadav OBCs ( who are about 40% of the population, and were aggrieved that under a Yadav Chief Minister plum postings of officials usually go to Yadavs, who are about 12%, while other OBCs are ignored).


The Mahagathbandhan got the 12% Yadav votes, and perhaps a few other OBC votes. If they had got the 17% Muslim votes they may have won the elections, but Owaisi’s AIMIM  split the Muslim vote (AIMIM got 5 seats and made a dent in other constituencies).


So Sudha Pai is totally mistaken in thinking that unemployment and other such factors matter in Indian elections. As long as India remains semi-feudal this situation will continue, and unemployment, price rise etc will remain irrelevant.