The Indian Caste system which has existed for a long time has had a significant
role in shaping the identities of Indians. The segregation based on caste has
led to discrimination and inequality.
Caste-based injustices in India have led to several movements challenging them. These movements have made people more
civil toward other members of their caste. India should be commended for its
continuous efforts to eradicate this system and as a result, many of the lower
castes have benefitted from it.
Although public purification rituals related to caste status have somewhat
diminished, behind closed doors and
on significant ceremonies, they continue to be observed. It is unfortunate
that even after seventy-five years of independence, caste still holds a strong
grip over the Indians as it plays a vital role in the country's social and
political interactions. Caste has become a means to access power and resources.
It also has become a very sensitive issue, especially in electoral politics.
election campaigns, the posters, the manifestos, and the agendas of political
parties revolve around the issue of caste. Not only this, the candidates for
constituencies are nominated by the parties keeping in mind the caste of the
candidate. It is an important determinant of the voting behavior of the citizens
of India and the electoral politics revolves around creating a vote bank based
on caste rather than addressing other important issues.
Post-Independence, India's constitution makes use of state power to eliminate caste-based discrimination. The reservation of legislative
seats for the SCs and STs
was among the primary methods used to address discrimination. According to
Articles 330 and 332 of the Indian Constitution, seats should be reserved for
the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes. The parliament has renewed these
reservations even though they were supposed to be short-term remedies.
The reservations introduced on the recommendations of the Mandal Commission have
resulted in the emergence of regional parties. The rise of these parties has
made the marginalized caste more significant. For example, the SP, JD (U), RJD
are generally identified with the OBCs,
the BSP with the Dalits or the BJP with the high castes and these parties
continuously make efforts to maintain their vote bank and keep them satisfied.
Voting behavior explains the factors which influence a voter while casting their
Why do voters vote for a particular candidate? Is it his views on the social,
economic, and political situation of the country? Or is the strong, charismatic
personality of the leader?
Election studies have been conducted since the first general election of 1951-52
and according to them, there are various determinants of voting behavior such as
religion, caste, class, etc.
The political parties focus on these determinants
instead of their ideology to attract voters and even the voters cast their votes
because of these determinants. Analysts of India's politics have observed that
Indians vote their caste while casting their vote. As a result, the process of
the development of the country is hindered because instead of voting for
qualified candidates, the country chooses those who only serve their own
The caste system determines the social positions to elect and to be elected
because the ones with a lower rank in this system are considered incapable of
providing social protection and on the other hand, they need to feel protected.
The candidates who belong to the same ethnic group or identity influence the
attitudes of voters. The voters are bothered more about the social attributes of
a candidate, mainly the caste. As a result, it becomes the main determinant of
Criminal Links Of Politicians
Research has shown that the candidates representing a caste or community have
public support even after being linked to criminal activity. Parties generally
select a strong candidate who can make caste-specific appeals. These politicians
are seen as people who can protect the interests of their communities by any
For example, the work of various scholars reveals that Yadav political leaders
in Uttar Pradesh, OBCs in Bihar and goondas in Gujarat establish the link of how
criminals prove their credibility to their community.
But, how can criminality be linked with credibility?
A strong candidate signifies a powerful man who is fearless and feared by
people. They wear their criminality as a badge of honor. They are self-claimed
" Robin hoods" who cater to the needs of their community even if they have to do
A criminal candidate who belongs to a particular caste is seen as a credible
person because of his ability to bend the laws to suit his group's interests.
Such a candidate is also feared by his opposition.
A community that has always been looked down upon, not been represented, not
been heard needs a strong person who has the power and resource to fulfill the
demands of that group. It is considered essential because only that person will
be able to bring honor and status to the community. The people of a caste need a
representative who understands the requirements of their group and they believe
that only a person who belongs to the same caste will be able to do so.
An example can be Udai Bhan Karvariya, a state politician belonging to Uttar
Pradesh who won elections even though he had a criminal record. He claimed that
he would use this power for the well-being of the upper caste Brahmin
population. These Brahmins were affected by the backward caste who had recently
acquired power and one of the Brahmin supporters thus called him a " rescuer" .
And thus, caste plays an important role in political participation in India.
Even today, when the country approaches a new round of state elections, most
political parties are preparing their strategies. Data about the caste and
community is being collected, the local caste leaders are being identified to
find a suitable candidate who has the maximum chance of winning.
Post- Independence caste has played a significant role while casting votes.
Among other reasons, another reason could be the lack of information about the
qualifications of a candidate or the lack of knowledge as to what factors should
be kept in mind while casting votes. But once in a while, a section of a caste
supports other parties than their original choice. This is an outcome of
dissatisfaction with their usual choice.
For example, in UP, in the 1990s, many OBCs had supported the BJP and even in
the early 2000s, several high castes - Brahmins and Rajputs, supported the BSP
and the SP. It was reflected in the 2014 general elections that the impact of
caste has slowly come down and that could be because of the emergence of new
variables i.e., class and religion. However, that is only at the general level.
Caste still holds the same position at the Jati level and therefore after 2014,
BJP had tried to win over the lower castes by creating multiple
strategies. Therefore, it can be concluded that despite the adoption of
democratic values which conceive of a society free from casteism, caste
continues to characterize politics in India and the voting factors of the
- Manali S. Deshpande, History Of The Indian Caste System And Its Impact
On India Today, (2010),
- Ind. Const. Art. 330 & 332
- Ahmed Usman, Shabbir Hussain, Muhammad Usman, Caste and Character of
Candidates, Political Patronage and Voting Behavior in India, (December,
- Determinants of Voting behaviour, https://egyankosh.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/66628/1/block-2.pdf
- Milan Vaishnav, Caste Politics, Credibility, And Criminality: Political
Selection In India, (September 29, 2011),
- TOI. (n.d.). BJP MLA Udai Bhan Karwariya News: Latest News on BJP MLA
Udai Bhan Karwariya - Times of India. The Times of India. (March 29, 2014),
- Jaffrelot, C. Lok Sabha election special: Do Indians vote their
caste? India Today. (April 19, 2019), https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20190429-do-indians-vote-their-caste-1504678-
- Afroz Alam Associate Professor and Head. The caste politics curse that
India just can't shake off. The Conversation. (October 6, 2017) https://theconversation.com/the-caste-politics-curse-that-india-just-cant-shakeoff-84216