Caste is no longer the dominant factor in Indian politics, asserted dalit thinker Chandra Bhan Prasad and Vasindra Mishra, Zee Media Editor-Regional Channels on Bharat Bhagya Vidhata. That caste has long passed its sell-by date is apparent from poll discourse across India invoking development issues.
Zee Research Group/Delhi
Class is gradually replacing caste as the dominant factor in Indian society and entrepreneurship is the way forward for dalits to change their social status, asserted Chandra Bhan Prasad. The dalit thinker also suggested that so-called caste icons in Indian politics have failed to deliver to their communities and losing ground.
“The change in the society is visible with rising participation of dalits in many economic activities and the youth is the driving force”, said Prasad on Zee Media’s Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.
He was joined by Vasindra Mishra, Zee Media’s Editor-regional channels, who said, “Class-based society is more harmful than caste-based society. In the latter, all relationships in the society are defined only in terms of wealth and class.”
Prasad pointed out that backward leaders have been using their caste to get votes but they haven’t done enough for their communities. “Politicians such as Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan et al have been using their castes for political gain. But they haven’t done great work for their communities. While they pretend as icons for their respective communities, the reality is far more different.”
But, will caste ever become irrelevant?
Casteless society in India is a Utopia, said Kalyan Singh, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and senior BJP leader. “Caste politics is omnipresent and it is going to remain here. Casteless society is an ideal goal for the nation but will take some time to realize.”
Raman Singh, chief minister of Chhattisgarh values the contribution of all communities including dalits in development. “In the process of development it is important for all political parties to involve people irrespective to their caste and community. The contribution of backward leaders is not only limited to reserved seats.”
Entrepreneurship can change the social status of dalits, strongly suggested Prasad. He said, “more members of the community should go for entrepreneurship to overcome their past and move upward in social ranks.”
And what substantiates Prasad’s line of thinking is an analysis of government survey data by economists at the University Of British Columbia (UBC). In an August 2011 study, the UBC researchers found that the wage gap between other castes and dalits has decreased to 21 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 1983, less than the gap between white male and black male workers in the United States.
While highlighting that caste cannot be simply written off as a factor in India politics, Zee Media’s Mishra concurred that a leader cannot survive merely on the basis of caste today. “Caste is important but it cannot win you elections. The overall performance of a leader is more important than his caste.”
Prasad believed that as urbanization grows, caste will become increasingly irrelevant in India.
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