How caste factor plays out in BJP, Congress lists | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

How caste factor plays out in BJP, Congress lists

By, New Delhi
Apr 24, 2024 09:53 AM IST

In the BJP’s case, 27% of the 432 candidates declared so far are from an OBC, while the proportion for the Congress is 24.8% of 294 candidates.

The Congress party may have made Other Backward Class (OBC) census and representation of caste a big issue this election,  but an analysis of its candidates (294  announced till Sunday) and a comparison with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s 432 candidates announced till Friday  shows that the latter may have just edged out the former in terms of proportion of OBCs fielded.

A shopkeeper displays a model of an Electronic Voting Machine in Kolkata. (AFP Photo)
A shopkeeper displays a model of an Electronic Voting Machine in Kolkata. (AFP Photo)

In the BJP’s case, 27% of the 432 candidates declared so far  are from an OBC, while the proportion for the Congress is  24.8% of  294 candidates. The BJP continues to give a larger number of tickets to non-OBC and non SC/ST candidates with this proportion being  43%  for the party, as compared to  36% for the Congress.

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To be sure, given that the Congress is contesting the fewest seats it ever has in a Lok Sabha election (the number is likely to be in the early 300s), and has seat sharing arrangements with members of the INDIA bloc, it cannot immediately be concluded that the party is supporting fewer OBCs than the BJP.

TS Singh Deo, member of the central election committee, said the  party’s allies include the RJD in Bihar and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh  (social justice parties with a large base among OBCs) which gave seats to OBCs as part of the alliance.

“So that takes care of a huge chunk of the seats. For the rest, we also looked at the winnability of candidates.’’

BJP’s head of OBC cell Laxman Singh said, “We give representation to OBCs because they make up more than 50% of the population. Modiji has done the same for all marginalised communities and Rahul Gandhi stands exposed.’’

To avoid the complexity of caste classification, HT asked the two parties to classify their candidates.

 Political parties have always made caste a factor in their choice of candidates. However, this election  there is extra focus on caste since the INDIA bloc has made the demand for caste census their main calling card. Rahul Gandhi’s slogan on the issue has been- Jitni Abadi, Utna Haq (Rights proportionate to numbers). The Congress’ pitch is aimed at winning back some OBC voters from the BJP.

There are 131  constituencies reserved for SC/ST candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, so an analysis of this does not really make sense -- and usually no party exceeds this number significantly -- but  the Congress has fielded more  candidates (9.18%) from minority communities (Muslims, Parsis, Christians, and Sikhs) than the BJP (2%).

Political scientist Kancha Ilaiah said it is disappointing that the Congress gave fewer tickets to OBCs. However, he added, there is an apparent cause for this.

“Given the Congress’ manifesto had such focus on social justice  with the promise of a caste census and removal of 50%ceiling for reservation,  and given Rahul Gandhi’s consistent attack on other parties on caste, one expects them to give more seats even from their own party. It should have been more than what BJP has given. Congress is  however,facing a major problem- election funding capital has become communalised. Because of that, Congress has no money to spend on marginalised candidates. This could be the reason why they have limited candidates who they have to spend on. OBCs, Dalits and adivasi candidates cannot fight without central funding whereas BJP has huge amounts of money,” he said.

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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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