Par­ties weigh in caste as tick­ets are al­lot­ted in MP

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - NATION MYINDIAMYVOTE - Ran­jan

OF­FI­CIALLY, THE BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY AND CONGRESS MAIN­TAIN THAT CASTE IS NOT A FAC­TOR IN SE­LECT­ING CAN­DI­DATES. THEY SAY WINNABILITY IS THE ONLY CRITERION THEY FOL­LOW

BHOPAL: Bra­jen­dra Pratap Singh jumped head­long into cam­paign­ing af­ter he was named the Bharatiya Janata Party’s can­di­date from Mad­hya Pradesh’s Pawai, a seat he won in 2008 but lost in the 2013 polls, in the party’s first list on November 2.

But the min­is­ter of state for agri­cul­ture was in for a sur­prise just a week later when the party de­cided to shift him to Panna, roughly 50 kilo­me­tre away. BJP lead­ers said on con­di­tion of anonymity that the de­ci­sion was driven by re­ports of ad­verse caste equa­tions in the area – a sec­tion of the work­ers were un­happy that a Brah­min can­di­date had not been given the ticket to fight the Congress nom­i­nee, also a Brah­min. The party fi­nally re­placed Singh with Prahlad Lodhi, a mem­ber of the other back­ward class (OBC) com­mu­nity that makes up a size­able chunk of the con­stituency’s pop­u­la­tion.

Sim­i­lar con­sid­er­a­tions sway de­ci­sions at the op­po­site end of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. The Congress, for ex­am­ple, fielded an OBC face, Arun Ya­dav, to take on chief min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Budhni, mov­ing away from its past prac­tice of field­ing can­di­dates from the same caste as Chouhan (Ki­rar). Party lead­ers say they are hop­ing to unite all the non-ki­rar votes. Both ma­jor par­ties have care­fully weighed caste con­sid­er­a­tions while al­lot­ting tick­ets for the 148 non-re­served seats among the 230 assem­bly seats in the state. In the Maoist-af­fected Balaghat district, for ex­am­ple, both par­ties have nom­i­nated OBC lead­ers for an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of all un­re­served seats be­cause the com­mu­nity holds sway in the re­gion. Among the 148 non-re­served seats, Congress lead­ers say the party gave about 40% tick­ets to OBCS fol­lowed by about 27% to Thakurs and about 23% to Brah­mins. The re­main­ing has gone to other up­per castes and mi­nori­ties can­di­dates. BJP lead­ers say the party has given about 39% tick­ets to OBCS, 24% to Thakurs and 23% to Brah­mins. Thirty-four seats are re­served for Sched­uled Caste (SC) and 41 for Sched­uled Tribe (ST). Official data on can­di­date se­lec­tion is not avail­able be­cause no cen­sus count­ing OBC num­bers has been made pub­lic.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Gir­i­jashankar said, “Castes do ex­ist in so­ci­ety. None of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties can ig­nore it. Par­ties have been do­ing the caste pol­i­tics to strengthen their vote banks. Hence, they can­not an­noy up­per castes while try­ing to keep in good hu­mour the SC/ST.”

“Winnability is the sole criterion in se­lec­tion of can­di­dates for any of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. None of the par­ties can ig­nore the caste com­po­si­tion of the par­tic­u­lar con­stituen­cies in de­cid­ing the can­di­dates for the same. For in­stance, in se­lect­ing the can­di­dates for Vind­hya re­gion one can­not ig­nore the dom­i­nance of Brah­mins and Thakurs in par­tic­u­lar pock­ets. Dif­fer­ent re­gions have dif­fer­ent caste equa­tions and dom­i­nance”, said a se­nior Congress leader on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Of­fi­cially, both par­ties dis­miss caste as a fac­tor in the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates. State BJP vice-pres­i­dent Vi­jesh Lu­nawat said, “BJP is a cadre-based party where a worker’s per­son­al­ity grows not as per his caste or com­mu­nity but as per his work and ser­vice to the so­ci­ety while ad­her­ing to the party’s ide­ol­ogy and prin­ci­ples.

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