You are on page 1of 9

Special articles

When the Caste Calculus Fails: Analysing BSPs Victory in UP

The triumph of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the 2007 UP assembly elections has incorrectly been explained in terms of caste. The BSP did use caste but only as a metaphor to build innovative grassroot alliances, which demonstrated that the concerns of other communities mattered as much as those of the dalits. A disaggregated analysis, by assembly seats and by region, shows no simple correlations between caste and outcome. The electorates are too large and the social interests too diverse for any simplistic caste calculations to hold. Caste is an important factor, but only one of many; to explain everything in terms of caste robs voters of their secular credentials.
ahujan Samaj Partys (BSP) recent victory in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly elections surprised many primarily because they were listening to psephologists and election pollsters who predict election results on the basis of caste calculations. As we will show, these experts were widely off the mark because they were factually and logically incorrect in depending too heavily on caste. Sadly, such an over reliance on caste numbers for analysing electoral trends also undermines the secular calculations of the voters. Like the rest of us they too have other concerns save pure identity ones. As the BSP was not paying too much attention to caste arithmetic it did very well by imaginatively bringing about a coalition of interests between different groups. Sure, it was done in the metaphor of caste, and like all metaphors one has to read between the lines. This is wholly different from being casteist, in a strict sense, as in this case, the interests of other communities also matter besides ones own. This is what makes for grassroots coalition politics, and not just a poll alliance arranged by fixers and backroom boys. In proper coalitions, secular factors necessarily play a dominant role. The compulsion now is to bind classes and communities in terms of their felt aspirations and needs, keeping the long-term in mind. It is not just a handshake, a wink and a nod between self-seeking politicians. Mao demonstrated the strength of this tactic in the Chinese Revolution. If it helped the revolution progress he did not hesitate to align with rich peasants, and, on occasions, even with impoverished landlords. Mayawati has done something similar. By reaching out to brahmans she signalled to all the so-called upper castes that she was willing to listen to their problems as well. In her estimation, given the current state of affairs, this would not militate against securing the interests of the poor, who are largely dalits. In keeping with this innovative approach that sought ground level alliances, there was no need to send out election manifestos or appear before the mass media. In a country like India, these are largely middle class amusements.

BSP: Then and Now

A trip to east UP in February 2007 clearly revealed to us that BSP was going to do much better this time around. From Sonbhadra to parts of Balia there was a clear BSP surge. Incidentally, the party had not won in these places in the last 2002 elections. This gave us an indication that Mayawati was well set to be the chief minister again [Gupta 2007a]. Sure enough, when the results came BSP had taken all of Sonbhadra and Balia, and much more. Let us take a close look at the places where BSP has now won, and how radically different this picture is from what happened in 2002 (Maps 1 and 2). The bad news first: In this election BSP lost some of its seats of 2002 primarily to Samajwadi Party. This spread across different pockets of UP and was not limited to any one area. It registered losses in Aligarh (west), in Kheri (north), and between Maharajganj and Deoria (east). Elsewhere the BSP made huge gains, largely at the cost of the BJP and Congress. Apart from the victory in the Sonabhadra area already referred to, the BSP made fresh inroads in a number of constituencies from Jalaun, Laitpur and Mahoba in south central UP, to Gonda, Balrampur and Nanpara bordering Nepal, and in the north-west in Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar and Deoband in Saharanpur district. In all these areas BSP won convincingly and rewrote the election results of 2002. The maps make clear that given the scale of its success, it is easier to say where BSP has not done well rather than where it has emerged victorious. Interestingly, BSPs success figures are not scattered and disparate, but tend to happen in swathes that take in whole districts and some bits of the neighbouring ones as well.

Multi-Caste Visage
According to a rough tally (which may not be perfect) out of a total of 206 BSP victors in 2007 there were about 62 from


Economic and Political Weekly

August 18, 2007

Map 1: UP Assembly Elections 2002 BSP Performance

the scheduled castes (SCs), 57 Muslims, 34 brahmans and 19 thakurs. There are about 50 or so BSP MLAs now who are from the Other Backward Class (OBC) communities, represented largely, but not exclusively, by yadavs. BSP was the major victor in SC constituencies for it won 62 of the 89 reserved seats.1 Interestingly, in spite of all the Congress hyperbole on being a friend of the minorities, it failed to field a single successful Muslim candidate in this election. So no matter which estimate one takes, it is clear that BSP has a wide array of castes in its fold. This, by itself, may not be remarkable. In the old days the Congress too had this multicaste and multi-community character. The Congress Party was likened to a giant umbrella where everybody could find a place. If one takes a close look at this analogy then there are many problems with it. The resemblance with Congress, that appeared so compelling at first sight, is actually spurious. Under Congress giant umbrella the list of invitees was sent out by upper caste/ class Congress members. In the BSP alignment the leading partners are the SCs and other poor communities. As their interests are now paramount it is highly unlikely that everybody would be invited unlike Congress large garden parties. This places the BSP in a rather unique position and heightens ones curiosity regarding its internal composition and electoral base. BSPs caste/community diversity is also remarkable for scarce a little over a decade back the party, and its most staunch Economic and Political Weekly August 18, 2007

advocates, lashed out at the savarnas (or forward castes). But today, BSP promotes the interests of other castes as well, notably the savarnas, and most spectacularly the brahmans. One of the reasons for her faith in brahmans is because they did not desert her as many did when the Samajwadi Party engineered defections in the last assembly. Of the 17 brahmans in BSP then, only one defected. This is clearly good enough reason for her to trust this community. But the obverse question must also be asked: Why do some, if not all, brahmans find BSP attractive? After all, BSP was set up to basically champion the interests of the SCs and those who belong to the bottom of the social pile. Whether the mass of brahmans actually voted BSP or not will be discussed in a while, but certainly there is a fair number of brahmans and baniyas who have been hurt by OBC reservations post-Mandal. These castes hold the Samajwadi Party responsible for supporting and institutionalising Mandal recommendations in both the state and in the country as a whole. If Mandals cloud had not been hovering in the political firmament then maybe brahman votes would not have shifted to BSP to the extent they have in recent years [see also Gupta 2007b, 2007c]. Interestingly, during the entire election campaign of 2007, Mayawati did not commit herself on the Mandal front. It is not as though the BSP had never spoken in its favour in the past, but it stayed away from saying anything categorical on this score

4321 4321 4321

Areas BSP Won


Map 2: UP Assembly Elections 2007 BSP Performance

this time around. This gives us an indication that Mayawati was sensitive to the peeve of the forward castes and did not want to have that flare up against her long-term interests. That she was able to skirt this issue also shows the importance of going in to the fray without a manifesto. This change of tack can also be gauged from the way the BSP has changed its party slogan and not just from the recruitment of its partisans. The popular BSP slogan in the early 1990s used to be tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro jutey char. Today this formulaic description of the enemy no longer holds. Instead there are other mantras now that seek to integrate the upper castes as an important constituent of the BSP. Sample the following: haathi nahin, Ganesh hai, Brahma,Vishnu, Mahadev hai or haathi badhta yayega, brahman shankh bajaega, etc, etc.2 These catchy ditties clearly indicate the departure from its earlier stance, and it is this that has foxed most political commentators. What they should have kept in mind is not just caste arithmetic but chemistry too. As secular interests spawn different combinations at different points of time, it is unwise to rigidly hold to bookish notions of caste in understanding contemporary political processes. There are various estimates of the number of brahmans in UP. It is believed that about 10 per cent of UPs population comprises brahmans, and if we were to take all the so-called forward castes

(or savarnas) then the proportion might well climb up to around 20 per cent. This is roughly equal to the numbers of SCs in this state. Muslims too form a sizeable chunk as they constitute about 18 per cent of UPs electorate [Rangarajan 2007]. But it is not only gross caste figures and election results that should concern us here. We need to disaggregate caste figures and examine whether a pattern emerges in terms of its relationship with BSPs performance.

Caste as an Undependent Variable

First, let us take in the details of what constitutes BSP territory today. This is not an easy task to map as there are 402 legislative constituencies which are enumerated in the most haphazard fashion one can imagine. Widely disparate constituency numbers sit next to each other making it difficult to figure out who won where and what the overall electoral topography looks like. To make matters more difficult, as our aim was to examine the nature of relationships, if any, between caste and community and electoral outcomes, we had to rely on information that is over 70 years old. Other than for Muslims and SCs, the information on other castes is culled from the 1931 Census. We can do no better than rely on those figures for that was the last time


Economic and Political Weekly

321 321 321


August 18, 2007

Map 3: UP Assembly Elections 2007 Party-wise Distribution

Samajwadi Party
321 321
xxxxx xxxxx

Bharatiya Janata Party Congress

enumerations were done caste-wise. It is far from perfect but that was the best possible under the circumstances. This too demanded close attention to details as the names of areas have changed, and also, indeed, the names of certain castes. Now that we have a visual representation through Maps 1 and 2, let us examine if there is any relationship at all between the electoral outcome and caste presence in different regions of UP. Scheduled castes: The first point that needs to be noted is that according to our estimate, very few SC candidates other than those that stood in the reserved constituencies won in this election. In all likelihood the only SCs from the BSP in this UP assembly are from the SC seats only. But because BSP won in 62 of 89 such seats its SC representation in the legislative assembly is impressive. In these reserved constituencies again, the Samajwadi Party that had, as recently as in 2002, won 34 seats only managed a humble 13 this time. But when we look at the general relationship between caste presence and BSP performance then it should strike the reader that it cannot be just SC activism that has done the trick for BSP. We are talking of widely disparate regions with different kinds of caste compositions. We need to go beyond SC figures to take in the possible contributions of other castes as well to account for BSPs spectacular showing (Map 4). If we superimpose the election results of 2007 over SC distribution in UP (Map 4) we find a variable picture. Though the BSP has won an overwhelming number of SC reserved

constituencies, 62 this time as against 24 in 2002, it is not as if the picture is uncomplicated. It has not romped home in all constituencies where the percentage of SCs is on the high side. For example, in Kheri, Shahbad, Sitapur, Phulpur and Azamgarh, where the SC population is over 25 per cent, the BSP did not do well. On the other hand BSP won in areas such as Bisauli, Chandausi and Saswan to the west and Gonda and Balrampur near Nepal, where SCs are fewer by comparison. It needs to be added that the BSP failed to secure these seats in 2002, but it certainly made up for it in 2007. Caste arithmetic fails again once we take a longer view of the election results. SC literacy and BSP: What are the other possible facile generalisations that need to be discarded? It is often argued that there is a positive relationship between SC literacy and BSP partisanship. The data however do not demonstrate this trend in any convincing way. High literacy is certainly a trait among BSP leaders but not necessarily among its voters. In Sonbhadra, Balrampur and Gonda, where the SC literacy rate is below about 31 per cent and the SC population no more than 15 per cent, the BSP triumphed over its competitors. Remember, these are largely fresh conquests as the party did not win in these constituencies in 2007. But high literacy rates among SCs failed to click in BSPs favour in constituencies located in and around Shamli, Baghpat, Jhansi and Banda (to name a few) where the SC population is also high (Map 5). In other words, it would be risky to surmise in advance that

Economic and Political Weekly

August 18, 2007


Map 4: Scheduled Caste Population

Below 20 per cent Between 20-25 per cent

321 321
xxxxx xxxxx

Between 26-30 per cent 31 per cent plus

Source: Census of 1991.

a high SC population or high/low SC literacy, or a combination of the two, would automatically favour BSPs prospects. There are a few other presumptions that also need to be laid to rest. Muslims: It is not as if the picture is variable only in the case of the relationship between BSP and SCs, but this happens to be the situation with respect to other communities and castes as well. In Baharaich there is a high presence of Muslims (over 20 per cent) but the BSP has lost there. It has, however, done well in neighbouring Muslim dominant constituencies in the north central regions of Kaiserganj, Domariaganj and Balrampur that are just south of Nepal (Map 6). For example, there is a high Muslim population in Muzaffarnagar and Moradabad but that did not help the BSP in any way. But before we rush to conclude anything, one must note that in neighbouring Bareilly, where Muslims are equally numerous, the BSP did well. Once again, if the total picture is taken there is little to suggest any straightforward correlation. Yadavs/ahirs: The situation with the yadavs or ahirs is a little interesting (Map 7). The BSP fares poorly wherever the yadavs have a large presence, i e, approximately over 15 per cent of the population. This is particularly true of constituencies in the districts of Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Mainpur. In 2007, the first two went to Samajwadi Party and the third to BJP. The BSP did not do very well either in areas where yadavs are between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the population. This would include constitutencies in Rae Bareli, Etah, Amethi,

Faizabad, Bara Banki (this is a reserved seat), Bahraich and Banda though it has won in Chitrakoot that adjoins it. In fact the list is quite impressive as BSP has fared poorly even in north-east UP, where the yadavs are again between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the population. I am now thinking of regions beginning from Faizabad and extending to Bahraich, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj and Deoria. But with the same kind of yadav presence the BSP has won this time in Balrampur, Balia, Chandauli, Chitrakoot and Sonbhadra, besides others. It should be mentioned that other than Chitrakoot, the BSP had lost these constituencies in 2002. These are clearly not traditional BSP strongholds. At last, there is one dim indication. Wherever the yadavs or ahirs are over 15 per cent the BSPs performance is clearly well below par. The votes in these regions go primarily, though not exclusively to, the Samajwadi Party. In places where the yadavs are between 10 per cent and 15 per cent the BSPs success is mixed, though in most instances it tends to lose. Unlike the situation with Muslims and other castes mentioned earlier, there appears to be some kind of indication that a strong yadav presence usually goes against BSP, though there are exceptions even to this rule. As if to buck this conclusion we find that the Samajwadi Party usually wins in constituencies with a strong yadav presence. It has won clearly in places like Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Ghazipur where yadavs are dominant as they comprise over 15 per cent of the population. But it has also won in Moradabad and Muzaffarnagar that have a proportionately low yadav population.


Economic and Political Weekly

August 18, 2007

Map 5: Scheduled Caste Literacy Rate

Source: Census of 2001.

Perhaps, this is because jats are prominent in this region. Yet, if one were to go by their demographic distribution, jats have not uniformly voted in favour of the Samajwadi Party. In many jat dominated areas of west UP the BJP seems to have done very well as also Faizabad, Patti and Varanasi further to the east, where there are a fair number of yadavs and brahmans. So the yadavs too are politically split and tend to distribute their favours. The Samajwadis generally get a chunk of this largesse but they are not the sole beneficiaries any longer. Also, please recall: there are several yadav MLAs from the BSP too. So being a yadav is not always a safe bet for the Samajwadi Party. Brahmans: There are three areas in UP where the proportion of brahmans to the total population is over 15 per cent. These are Kanpur, Mathura and Gonda. The BSP succeeded only in Gonda (ranked third in 2002) and not in the remaining two (Map 8). But in places where the brahman presence is between 10 per cent and 15 per cent, the BSP has done rather well. It has won in places like Basti (third in 2002) Aonla, Pratapgarh, Ferozabad, Mahoba, Auriya, Bilhaur (ironically next to Kanpur, where it lost) and quite significantly in two out of three seats in Agra and Allahabad. However, with a similar brahman profile it did not do well in Faizabad and Deoria. In addition, BSP has not done well in most large urban centres of UP like Meerut, Lucknow, Kanpur and Mathura. True, it has been impressive in Allahabad and Agra (already mentioned), but it needs to do better in the larger agglomerates of UP. As is common knowledge, upper castes tend to concentrate in urban centres. What can we conclude then about the relationship between brahman areas and BSP performance? The verdict is still uncertain. It is not quite as negative as it is between BSP and yadav presence, but the correlation is not very strong either. It, however, appears from the over all picture that, if nothing else, the many Economic and Political Weekly August 18, 2007

brahman sammelans and rallies neutralised savarna caste anxieties against BSP activists. Savarnas were certainly encouraged to believe that unlike the Samajwadis the dispensation under Mayawati would not be so overtly towards yadavs, and other dominant OBCs. After all the effort Mayawati put in to bring in the brahmans (a short hand for upper castes), there has certainly been a shift in her favour. It may be a small one, but perhaps significant in terms of tilting the balance.

From Caste Calculus to a Secular Calculus

As we said earlier, this election demonstrates a positive, but weak relationship in areas where BSP has emerged victorious and where brahmans are in respectable numbers, i e, over 10 per cent of the population. Likewise, there is a negative, but weak relationship, between areas where yadavs are numerically significant and the BSPs electoral performance. Within the limits of caution we can only say that where brahman presence is significant the BSP tends to do well, but the same does not hold in areas where yadavs have comparable numbers. Now that we are ready to discard the simplistic arithmetic of caste we should open ourselves to other explanations, none of which may be either complete or exclusive. But, at any rate, they all have the advantage of pointing us to secular factors that are closer to determining the outcome of elections than the inflexible rule of arithmetic. To begin with, the idea of a BSP stronghold needs to be abandoned. Even in this very triumphant election it lost 34 seats that it had won in 2002. That it captured many more constituencies this time is another matter, but what is for certain is that nothing is certain. Of the 30 reserved seats that BSP captured afresh this time, in only 11 was it placed at number two in 2002. In the

321 321

Less than 36 per cent Between 36 and 50 per cent More than 50 per cent


Map 6: Presence of Muslims

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 Bijnor (SC) Amroha Moradabad Rampur Sambhal Budaun Aonla Bareilly Pilibhit Shahjahanpur Kheri Shahabad Sitapur Misrikh (SC) Hardoi (SC) Lucknow Mohanlalganj (SC) Unnao Rae Bareli Pratapgarh Amethi Sultanpur Akbarpur (SC) Faizabad Bara Banki (SC) Kaisarganj Bahraich Balrampur Gonda Basti (SC) Domariaganj Khalilabad Bansgaon (SC) Gorakhpur Maharajganj Padrauna Deoria Salempur Ballia Ghuri Azamgarh 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 Lalganj (SC) Machhilishahar Jaunpur Saidpur (SC) Ghazipur Chandauli Varanasi Robertsganj (SC) Mirzapur Phulpur Allahabad Chail (SC) Fatehpur Banda Hamirpur Jhansi Jalaun (SC) Ghatampur (SC) Bilhaur Kanpur Etawah Kannauj Farrukhabad Mainpuri Jalesar Etah Firozabad (SC) Agra Mathura Hathras (SC) Aligarh Khurja (SC) Bulandshahr Hapur Meerut Baghpat Muzaffarnagar Kairana Saharanpur Hardwar (SC)

Below 15 per cent

321 321

15-20 per cent Over 20 per cent

Source: Census of 1991.

(Districts 1 to 4 are not shown above as they are now part of the newly created state of Uttarakhand.)

rest its ranking was a lowly third, sometimes even fourth or fifth, in 2002. Therefore, even SC constituencies are not safe bets for the BSP. True it has won 62 such seats this year, but given the past record of voter volatility across the board, there is just no room for caste-based complacency. Even in the general constituencies the BSP has often come from way behind to win in the 2007 elections. For instance in 2002 BSP ranked number three in Kaiserganj, Balrampur, Gonda and Basti, but it won convincingly this time around. However, when we look at the comparative figures of the last two elections, an interesting lesson is waiting to be told to warn scholars against believing in a stronghold theory of elections. In 2007 the BSP lost large chunks of what it had won in 2002. It had to yield to other parties in place like Hamirpur, Banda, Ghazipur, Neghasan (and areas around Kheri) and constituencies around Bahraich. If the announcement of election results had begun with these constituencies, then BSP supporters would have been truly downcast. BSP retained from its 2002 kitty constituencies in Chitrakoot, Manjharpur, Chandauli, Jewar, Khurja (near Bulandshahr) and in the Deoband area. In balance it lost a lot more than it held on to, if one takes the total area into account. But because it has so many more MLAs this time, it is easy to overlook the fact that most of the 206 BSP seats have been freshly cornered in 2007. What should also become apparent from the analysis and presentation of facts so far is that it is very hard to be a die-hard casteist and find somebody to consistently vote for during parliamentary or even legislative assembly elections. The first is the sheer fact of inadequate numbers. Only in a handful of constituencies do certain castes muster up with great difficulty a presence of over 15 per cent of the population. In most cases where these castes are present they are less than 10 per cent of

the total number in that region. There are certain castes like the kurmis who do not matter in any significant way for they are in somewhat respectable numbers only in Sonabhadra, Pratapgarh and Bara Banki. So, it would be nearly impossible for a kurmi or a koeri to insist on voting strictly along caste lines in either the parliamentary or legislative assembly elections. As no single caste numerically preponderates in any constituency this puts a severe constraint on any arithmetic calculation of electoral results. There are simply not enough people from any caste to determine victory and defeat in a straightforward way. This fact is always ignored by those who stress the importance of caste to understand contemporary Indian politics. It is not true either that certain castes, like jats and gujars, or ahirs and jats, or kurmis and koeris, or bindis, noniyas and kumhars, are natural allies. They often come together, and, equally often, fall apart. Celestine Bougle had once said that the defining feature of the caste order is mutual repulsion [Bougle 1991]. Given this near axiomatic truth, it would indeed be a risky proposition to imagine that certain castes spontaneously band together because of traditional ties. Therefore, if we have noticed a statistical bunching of certain castes around a particular political party, then the reasons have to be sought on secular grounds and not along lines of the traditional hierarchy. Further the fact that the fortunes of different parties keep changing from election to election should further confirm this line of reasoning. In an earlier study conducted in Maharashtra, UP and Bihar on the basis of the three parliamentary elections of the 1990s it became quite clear that it was very difficult to determine the poll outcome on the basis of either caste profile or previous results. For example, in Moradabad, Kheri, Hardoi, Shahabad and Misrich where the SCs are between 15 per cent and 25 per cent


Economic and Political Weekly

August 18, 2007

Map 7: Presence of Ahirs

Map 8: Presence of Brahmins

Below 10 per cent 10-15 per cent Over 15 per cent

321 321

Under 10 per cent 10-15 per cent Over 15 per cent

Source: Census of 1931.

there is no certainty about who the victors would be. In the 1990s it was a tussle between BSP, BJP, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal: and it was anybodys guess which party would finally win [see Gupta 2000: 163 and passim]. In these same parliamentary elections of the 1990s, the BSP won in Bahraich in 1998 though the SC presence was low there and so also was their lieteracy rate. But in Jalaun where there is a high proportion of SCs with a high literacy rate, the BSP could do no better than occupy the second spot (ibid: 164). So no matter whether we are looking at legislative level or parliamentary constituencies, the numbers of electorates involved are just too large and social interests too diverse for any simplistic caste calculations to hold. Nearly always it is a balancing act between different factors. Caste is certainly an important variable, but it is one among several that voters take into account.

Even though several elections have proved caste arithmetic to be unworkable, why is it still resorted to time after time? There is, we believe, a good sociological reason for this. Most commentators and members of the mass media spend a lot of time with political leaders than they do with the mass of voters. These politicians play the community/caste card so that they can edge out other aspirants for the job. Their internal rivalry is particularly intense at the time when tickets are distributed. Remember, the leaders of most parties too come from elite backgrounds and have similar mindsets. They too believe that caste is the most dependable variable. Those that might have some qualms about this, nevertheless feel that there is nothing other than their caste membership that they can display in their favour as they have failed to deliver on other fronts. This converts a bulk of our politicians, and their advisers, into becoming professional casteists or communalists. That is why there is such a plethora of professional yadavs, jats, Brahmans, and so on, and, by the same token, professional Hindus or Muslims. But the voters are different. Voters are not professional dalits, yadavs, kurmis or whatever. When Mayawati appealed to brahmans she may have kept quiet about Mandal but clearly pronounced

Economic and Political Weekly

4321 4321 4321

Caste Leaders in Search of Followers

that there should also be reservations for the poor. Everybody knows how many poor brahmans there are in UP and elsewhere. So, as Mayawati hoped, even if 2 to 3 per cent of upper castes votes swung in her favour, then she would probably come back in strength [Kumar 2007: 2239]. In all likelihood, this is what may have actually happened. It is not as if all brahman and upper caste dominated areas voted for BSP, but it happened in some pockets and that would certainly have helped. It is this critical shift of a few percentage points that one is talking about, for that is what counts. Thinking out of the box helps, and Mayawati has shown that. Mulayam Singh Yadav should learn a trick or two from this. A few upper castes votes went to Mayawati and so did votes from many OBCs. Several yadav and jat votes also came the BSPs way though there is no clear method of analysing the extent to which this happened. It is, however, not unreasonable to imagine that the anti-incumbency factor against the Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav has had an effect on yadav voters too, and why not? Why should yadavs consistently vote for Samajwadi? They may tend to, but that is about it. It needs to be remembered in this context that it is not as if the OBCs form one block. Kumar is correct when he points out that there is a large world out there of backwards and we should not just identify jats, gujars, lodhs and yadavs as representatives of this entire class. The other OBCs such as the rajbhars, mallahas, nais, etc, are very poor people and have none of the swagger that some jat and yadav owner cultivators can afford (ibid: 2238). On a quotidian basis, the lives of these poor, nondominant, OBC are not very different from those of the SCs. Their health, education and poverty profiles overlap with that of dalit communities. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to presume that the poor from these humble backgrounds also leaned in favour of Mayawati for old fashioned secular reasons. They had an option against the Samajwadi Party and they took it, without necessarily thinking caste! Why then do yadavs and jats give this optical illusion that only they count when it comes to OBCs and no others? Their numbers are insignificant. In most parts of west UP the percentage of jats barely climbs over 6 per cent-8 per cent. We have seen the ahir/

August 18, 2007


yadav percentages too in different regions of UP. Rarely do their numbers cross 15 per cent of the population of a particular constituency. If one were to take UP as a whole the proportions of such castes would be much less. The reason why yadavs and jats appear larger than life is because these communities are generally better off than the other poor OBCs and, therefore, possess greater organisational skills and network capabilities. Their literacy rates are higher and the number of people they have in the government and administrative machineries far out number functionaries from poor nishad or mallaha backgrounds. Yadavs, gujars and jats also have greater economic security, and this allows them to strike out politically on an organised basis. The desperate poor can only burst out in revolt, but are incapable of sustained agitation and plotted political maneouvres. Caste therefore is a much more very valuable resource for the leadership but not for the voters in the same way. But the electorate is left with little option but to vote for one party or another, for that is all that is available in the political market place. If the Samajwadi Party wins then the cry goes up that it is the victory of the yadavs, when BSP wins then the conclusion is that brahmans have voted en masse for Mayawati. These are simplistic responses and they come to the fore because journalists, psephologists and election experts generally talk to leaders. That there may be other calculations that people enter into and that the voters are not simply caste partisans, rarely cross their mind. This is why they are almost always off

the mark! This is also how they rob voters of their secular credentials. EPW Email:

1 The caste-wise break up of MLAs is far from being unambiguous. Different estimates exist. See for example, Rangarajan 2007; Abbas 2007; Vanshi 2007; Basu 2007. 2 Tilak stands for brahman, tarazu for baniyas (or the business communities) and talwar for the thakurs and other pretend warrior castes. In the second rhyme the take is on BSPs election symbol the elephant. Here there is a conscious appeasement of the savarna (or forward castes) by likening the elephant to Ganesh, an important Hindu sanskritic diety, that represents Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadev who form the famous Hindu trinity of gods in Vedic sacerdotal texts.

Abbas, Haider (2007): The Milli Gazette, June 15. Bougle, Celestine (1991): The Essence and Reality of the Caste System in Dipankar Gupta (ed), Social Stratification, Oxford, Delhi. Basu, Ajay (2007): Social Engineering Skills, Pioneer, May 14. Gupta, Dipankar (2000): Interrogating Caste: Understanding Hierarchy and Difference in Indian Society, Penguin, New Delhi. (2007a): In a League of Her Own, Hindustan Times, April 10. (2007b): When Backward Is Forward, Hindustan Times, May 14. (2007c): Calling the OBC Bluff, Times of India, May 17. Kumar, Vivek (2007): Behind the BSP Victory, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLII, pp 2237-39. Rangarajan, Mahesh (2007): Saakal, May 14. Vanshi, Pratap (2007): King Mayawati, Himal, July 13.



466, 9th Cross, Madhavan Park, 1st Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore - 560 011 Tel: 080-26562986; Fax: 080-26562991; Email: .


Associate Fellow: Three posts: One in Law, Society and Culture; one in Education; and one General. Candidates with a strong interest in Science and Society issues are also encouraged to apply. Salary commensurate with UGC Lecturer. Candidates, preferably under 35 years, should have submitted their Ph.D. dissertations in any area of humanities/social science research. Ph.D. is only a desirable qualification in the case of Candidates with a Law degree. The posts are for an initial period of one year, extendable to two. Candidates should be engaged in innovative interdisciplinary work in which cultural questions figure centrally. Selected candidates shall participate in the teaching and research activities of the Centre. Applicants should submit the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. Detailed CV. Copy of Ph.D. or other degree/proof of submission. Brief description of the research work the applicant intends to take up during the period of employment. A writing sample. The Administrative Officer, Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, 466, 9th Cross, Madhavan Park, 1st Block Jayanagar, Bangalore 560 011. An advance copy may be sent by email. For more information, write to the CSCS Director ( or log on to the website: or Last date for receiving applications: September 15, 2007. Joining date for selected candidate: November 1, 2007. CSCS reserves the right to relax or waive required qualifications, and to appoint faculty members by invitation. Those who have applied earlier need not re-apply.

Please send the application in hard copy to


Economic and Political Weekly

August 18, 2007