great failure

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Apr 2018 10:56:19

ONE of the greatest failures of Indian democracy is its inability to shun casteism in electoral calculations. Even though everybody offered a great lip service to a secular discourse and public affairs beyond caste and creed and religion, all these elements have continued to play a critical role in politics at all levels. All parties, without exception, have resorted to fielding candidates according to caste-compositions of respective constituencies and States. Political parties also, therefore, nurse their vote-banks by pampering castes and classes. Governments also go out of the way all the time to declare benefits to caste-groups and religious communities in a bid to win their electoral favours. If this is not one of the greatest failures of Indian democracy, then what else can we call it? 

If the larger Indian society must be blamed for this to a certain extent, then the country’s political community must be blamed doubly for this failure. Political parties have only exploited fragile communal sentiments of all sections of the larger Indian society for vote-bank politics. There is not one single political party in the country that has not played this vote-bank gamble in almost every elections since 1952’s first electoral exercise in Independent India. But every political party has mastered the ugly art of blaming other parties and describing itself as an epitome of virtue. Yet, on this count -- of casteist politics -- every party has registered a massive spiritual and moral failure.

In fact, the need of the hour is to shun caste-based electoral politics on an immediate basis. The need of the hour is to ensure that caste is shunned as a matter of belief and principle. And because the political community is not willing to do that, the Government must think positively and proactively about the issue and install legal mechanisms to keep casteism out of politics. A hundred per cent success may not be accrued in this endeavour. But even if a 50-plus per cent reduction is achieved, it could be called a tremendous attainment for our democracy.

As we take a serious look at the details of the issue, we feel compelled to state the fact as it has emerged over time. For this caste-based politics, the Congress party must be blamed for the initial sin of beginning to play caste-card in elections. The Congress party played cheaply into the hands of the British rulers who introduced divisive politics on the basis of caste and religion. And even though Congress stalwarts kept talking of secularism, they did not mind being played around with by the British rulers on the basis of caste and creed and religion. In those days when the British started dividing the Indian society on caste-basis, some sane thinker warned against it. But Congress leadership -- which included Mahatma Gandhi -- did not see the danger lurking in the British game. Much to the contrary, some Congress leaders saw a political opportunity in the British game and played along comfortably, further adding to divisive elements.

That malaise has now spread like cancer, and needs an immediate surgical cut. It will be too naive to expect something like that to happen in the immediate future. Yet, at this stage, we feel it our basic duty to assert the need of shunning of casteism in politics so that our future generations stand together in a harmonious atmosphere and enjoy a life of genuine unity.