ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Great Indian Democracy Bazaar: Scenes from a Political Convention

While some commentators are too quick to write off the importance of caste in north Indian politics in the wake of Nitish Kumar's triumph in Bihar, there is a certain ideological confusion among the political functionaries of the backward classes as this account of a convention in Meerut in November shows. There is an uncritical equation of backwardness in the sense of material deprivations with certain castes, allied to the common sense assumption that this deprivation is the deliberate handiwork of some other castes. Until and unless the backward class leadership manages to come up with a more inclusive ideological position, such conclaves would continue to remain easy platforms for dubious leaders to hijack.

Nitish Kumar is back to power in Bihar with a large majority, signifying what many characterise as a decisive popular mandate for development and against caste as an instrument for popular mobilisation.

It is too soon to begin writing off caste as an instrument for political mobilisation, but a visit to a recent national c onvention of backward classes seemed to confirm the impression that politicians looking to capitalise on caste fault lines are not going to have it easy in the near future.

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