What is the Relationship between Caste System and Politics in India?

Though casteism in traditional sense in weakening in India, though the leader of our country have proclaimed time and again the caste is menace to our national life, caste plays an important role in Indian Politics. Adult franchise and Panchayati raj have given new opportunities to castes. Numerically large castes have become important pressure groups in local as well as state politics.

Dr. Leach writes, “Everywhere, in India and Ceylon today whole caste groups are tending to emerges as political faction.” In the opinion of Ghurgy, unfortunately, in this country elections are fought and won on the basis of caste. Candidates contesting elections seek support from their castes. These leaders, thus elected maintain casteism even after election by showing special treatment to their caste members.

Even political parties are not free from ‘Caste Politics. Political Parties in India sponsor candidates having social base, which is nothing but the numerical strength of a caste of candidate in the constituency. He says, in fact caste has found a new field of an activity.

Leaders at the village level cultivate ministers for privileges and for a variety of favor. The ministers in turn need the help of village leaders during elections. It seems tot be accepted principle that, in the state cabinet at nay rate, each major caste should have a minister. This principle is in the village Panchayat as well. Voting very often son caste basis. The local politics in village is dominated by caste. Each caste wants to get maximum power in the village set up. The groupism in rural politics is centered around mostly on castes and to some extent on class and other factors.

Rajani Kothari in “Caste in Indian Politics” studied how far caste is influencing the rural policy. He finds that caste is becoming more and more strengthened because these castes are forming caste association. In the political sphere, the caste associations ask their members to vote the persons belonging to their own caste and he may of any political party. Caste members become more and more powerful in politics. They try to get reservations in government jobs for their caste members. Thus castes are trying to strengthen their position and to get as much political power as possible.

In Karnataka state politics there is rivalry between Okkaligas and Lingayats, the two leading present castes. In Andhra Pradesh the chief contesting castes are Reddies and Kamas, in Bihar, Bhumidars, Kayasth and Rajput.

Dravida Munnetra Kazngam (D.M.K) had arises as a non-Brahmin party of break the Brahmin cal dominance in Tamilnadu state politics. At present D.M.K and A.D.M.K are two non-Brahmin political parties in Tamilnadu and both the parties are in politically advantageous position in comparison with other political parties such as Congress and Communist in that state.

The highest expression of caste based politics is found in Bihar and U.P. is even today. The traditional caste rivalry between the Rajput, Kayastha and Bhumindar is found today among the political parties in Bihar.

The mobilisation of “Kurmis”on Faizabad district in Utter Pradesh by Jai Ram Varma, who was Agricultural Minister in SBP Government, illustrates the way in which caste can be used by a skilful organiser to transform his own caste into a viable political force. The same may be said of Kansi Ram who as the leader of the scheduled and lower castes had been able to create a political force in U.P. the politics of Haryana has also become caste and faction ridden.

Finally, in defiance of constitutional provisions of equal opportunity the Medalists have come forward to claim reservation for the backward caste in the name of backward. Thus the claim for reservation in the Central Government services is purely politically motivated and this also clearly indicates strong bond between caste and politics. Further constitution only speaks of backward classes. As a result any move by the state government to develop criteria on the basis of caste is stuck down by the courts as they violate constitution.

The only way by which some State Government tries of overcome the situation is by drawing up a list of castes which are backward. Caste cannot be criterion to help the backward classes to come up because it is astrictive and because it helps powerful members of the castes to exploit the concessions for their benefits. Any attempt to exclude the advanced backward caste from backward castes appears impossible, because the advanced backward castes will desire to be in the list; as they are politically powerful their claim cannot be laid aside by any democratic government.

Although the politics in India cannot be explained entirely in terms of caste, caste is an important element in the politics. The caste influences political activity from Panchayat right up to Parliament. While the Caste System is breaking down in social and cultural fields; conflicts between castes are intensified by party politics.