Was That a Mandate for Change or Again the Caste Politics?

By Aditya Jha

Edited by Michelle Cherian, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

The 2014 battle was significant in its own way. There are numerous reasons to state it as significant in the democratic history of India. 2014 elections witnessed high voter turnout, the emergence of a party as the single largest player after 3 decades and the end of a tragic or turbulent 10-year UPA regime; tragic, not in terms of cataclysmic national disasters but in terms of several scams, corruption, recession and unstable law and order.

Sometimes, it makes me wonder whether the verdict of 2014 was really path-breaking or indirectly inflicted by caste and communal politics. While having observed each and every activity of the BJP, beginning from NaMo being selected as the PM candidate to the election campaigns, one may get confused as to whether the verdict could be attributed to divisive politics or whether the mandate was really in favour of development. While taking into account the stances of the BJP leaders during the rallies and to that extent, NaMo’s stance itself, a conclusion can be drawn, that the caste factor did play a crucial role in the 2014 elections.

Many political analysts are of the view that whenever there is an overwhelming voter turnout, it inexplicably implies a vote for change and development. But I don’t agree with this. Had a development agenda alone have accounted for this outshining victory, the BJP would have flagged the 200 mark. Pre-election surveys predicted BJP with a lump sum of 200 seats, which added sparks to the campaigns of BJP and BJP got cautious about the third front pillar which could have proved to be a major hurdle for the BJP to reach the 275 mark.

States like UP and Bihar alone have a distinction to send in 120 MP’s to the Lok Sabha. On these 120 seats the battle was neck to neck, as these 120 seats were dominated by regional and caste based politics. After the Congress, which was presumed to be dethroned in this election, the third front was a fear factor for the BJP. Regional and dominating satraps of these states which stacked the list of the third front team were Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Nitish Kumar. NaMo took a serious note of these casteist leaders and gave a kick-start to the BJP campaign accordingly. In Bihar, the regional BJP leaders like SuMo and Giriraj Singh were tirelessly indulged in weaning away the OBC community voters. SuMo, former deputy CM of Bihar, was amongst the ones who brought to limelight the fact that NaMo belonged to OBC community, with the intention of gaining the sympathy of this community. NaMo himself in the rally in Patna, tried to woo the Yadav caste by invoking an example of Lord Krishna. NaMo’s rhetorical speeches had the overtones of invoking the regional dominating castes. Another instance was when a BJP Bihar spokesperson Giriraj Singh made a controversial speech that “those who are against Modi should leave India”, in a bid to unite and consolidate the Hindu votes for BJP.

If these instances could be taken one at a time, then an inference could be drawn that, while on one hand both Modi’s were trying to establish the vote bank at the grass-root level, and Giriraj on the other hand trying to achieve that at the mass level. Paswan’s inclusion (another instance) in the alliance also played a caste trump card, to attract the dalit vote bank which was under the influence of Nitish Kumar. Amit Shah, the lead election campaigner of BJP in UP, also tried to gain the votes of Hindus by raising the “Ram mandir nirman” issue and highlighting the failure of the Akhilesh Yadav government in controlling the Muzaffarnagar massacre. Amit Shah helped BJP in decomposing the caste calculus prevalent in UP. The Muzaffarnagar riots gave a lifeline to the BJP campaigns in UP. In UP, the politics was totally polarized, which proved to be a fertile ground for BJP campaigns. Nomination of NaMo from Varanasi could also be indirectly linked to the polarized vote bank in UP.

Therefore, it can be concluded that in the 2014 elections too, caste politics played a crucial role in helping BJP emerge as the party with a clear majority at the centre. This election was an amalgamation of frustrated voters and caste politics. The upcoming state elections in India will determine whether the voters will choose to vote for development or will continue to remain in their caste precincts. Many state leaders after the poll drubbing, have joined hands to overcome the BJP factor in the upcoming state elections.

Aditya is currently, pursuing a BTech degree in information technology from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune University. He is basically from Bihar and a Civil Services aspirant. More of a writer/editor than engineer, he loves writing poems, fiction, social satires etc. He is interested in national and international political affairs and has an immense grip in the political analysis. He started  writing in newspapers at a very young age. His articles appeared in some of the regional newspapers of Bihar. Presently, he is a writer at indiaopines (online news & editorial site), hindmatt (a delhi based magazine) and aakhirkyon (online portal).