Editorial: Caste in a different mould

May 17 2014, 04:56 IST
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SummaryDevelopment is the new religion, caste is no longer as important, and coalitions aren’t here to stay

Every possible stereotype you can think of, and more, have been busted, and convincingly by Narendra Damodardas Modi, India’s next prime minister. Indians don’t cast their vote, they vote their caste; Muslims never vote BJP; and with coalition politics here to stay, the split between caste and religion is what will mean that critical difference between victory and defeat in multi-cornered contests. Indeed, that is what has allowed India’s caste-warriors like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Mayawati to walk so tall all these years. That Modi might be able to actually achieve Mission 272 while selling just the mantra of development—the campaign had definite Hindutva undertones but caste was hardly mentioned—was visible in even the early phases of polling. Round 3, which involved 11 crore voters across 92 seats in 11 states, saw a surge in turnout levels; from 52% in 2009 to 64% in Delhi, from 48% to 69% in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, and from 43% to 54% in Sasaram in Bihar.

Apart from addressing 437 rallies and travelling 3 lakh km across the country between September 15 and May 10, an essential part of Modi’s campaign were the rath yatras that criss-crossed every UP village, for instance, showing them videos comparing life in Gujarat with that in UP. A similar voter trend got repeated in later rounds—Arrah in Bihar saw turnout levels rise from 36% to 53% and Patna Sahib from 34% to 52%. All told, by the time the polls were over, an extra 8% of voters cast their vote in 2014 across the country.

Even this youth bulge, though, couldn’t quite capture the TsuNamo, to use Amit Shah’s turn-of-phrase since the BJP’s vote share rose from 18.8% in 2009 to 31.5% in 2014—its seats rose from 116 to 283, while those of the NDA from 141 to 339. Clearly other forces were at work. The CSDS-Lokniti post-election polls for CNN-IBN, for instance, threw up interesting numbers, later validated by the actual poll results. In the 18-22 year olds polled, the NDA got 45% of votes versus a mere 21% for the UPA; for those above 56, the NDA got 38% versus 27% for the Congress—that is, the youth bulge was an important factor. When asked who was the preferred candidate for PM—Modi or Rahul Gandhi—the answer was 55% to 11% for upper castes, 38 to 13 for upper OBCs, 46 to 11 for lower OBCs

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