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

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Why Caste Matters

Reading Electoral Outcomes through the Optic of Caste

A response to “Caste and Electoral Outcomes: Misreading Hierarchy and the Illusion of Numbers” by Dipankar Gupta (EPW, 22 June 2019) analyses the continued role of caste as a medium in electoral politics and the function of caste identity.

A short version of this was published on 29 June 2019 in the Hindi edition of The Print.

The elections are over and scholars as well as politicians have begun to argue that this election has proved the end of caste-based politics. This should be a welcome narrative in a democracy, where people rise above their primordial sentiments and elect their public representatives on their individual merit, past performance and their potential to deliver to their constituency rather than simply choosing them on the basis of one’s caste or religion. In pursuit of this ideal of democracy and ethical citizenship, it is natural for us to evaluate the role of categories such as caste after every election.

Recently in the pages of EPW (“Caste and Electoral Outcomes: Misreading Hierarchy and the Illusion of Numbers”), Dipankar Gupta has written an article advising the fast-paced journalists and political pundits to rethink on the central role that they accord to caste in every election analysis. He argued that while emphasising the role of caste in elections, analysts commit two fallacies. One is that they assume that the two proximate caste groups in the hierarchy of caste could easily foster solidarity and vote for one party or a candidate. Gupta on the contrary argues that such a solidarity among castes is not possible because each caste has pride in themselves and also look down upon each other, hence this mutual repulsion among castes becomes a roadblock in their coming together on the basis of their caste ideology. In arguing this Gupta cites his earlier research work which proved that castes like Jats and Gurjars who, even though belonging to similar peasant category, could rarely accord respect to each other.

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Updated On : 24th Apr, 2020
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