Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Die is caste in Gujarat, Muslims matter

A clear poll math could be behind Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Sadbhavana and other community-driven political agenda of both the BJP and Congress in Gujarat.
A caste and community-wise break-up circulating in political circles, claimed to be part of the 2011 caste census which is yet to be made public, shows Muslims constitute between 10 per cent and 61 per cent of votes at least in 66 of the total 182 Assembly seats in the state.
Political analysts say caste, and not development, will finally decide who is elected.
Of the total votes of nearly 3.7 crore, however, Muslims constitute only 9.89 per cent. They are followed by Leuva Patels, the community to which former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and Gordhan Zadaphia belong. Constituting 8.11 per cent of the state’s electorate, Leuva Patels can influence 41 Assembly seats, mainly in Saurashtra-Kutch and South Gujarat. At the third place are Thakors, a part of OBCs, with 7.67% votes and holding sway in 40 seats, mainly in North and Central Gujarat.
Scheduled Tribes, forming 12.35 per cent of Gujarat’s electorate, are the single largest group in terms of size, but they are decisive only in 34 seats, mainly on the eastern belt stretching from Ambaji in the north to Umargam in the south.
Kadva Patels, the community to which number minister Anandi Patel belongs, have influence in over 32 seats and form 6.42% of Gujarat’s electorate, mainly in North Gujarat and on some parts of Saurashtra.
Kolis and Darbar (Rajput) community together have influence in 32 seats and have a total vote share of 7.79% and 6.52%, respectively.
Brahmins and Jains are the smallest, at 3.12% and 2.41%, respectively. They hold influence in nearly 10 seats.
All other castes in general and Other Backward Classes (OBC) are have 9.65% and 12.4% vote shares, respectively.
Dinesh Shukala, a former professor of political science at Gujarat University, says, “Though both BJP and Congress are talking of development as an agenda, caste, sub-caste and regional balance become key issues which the parties only see at the last moment during selection of candidates. It will be an obvious issue in the upcoming elections.”
“Despite BJP’s claims, Muslims voting for it in large numbers is not possible. It can happen in a few pockets,” he says.
Ghanshyam Shah, a sociologist and former JNU professor, says caste politics has played a key role in Gujarat since 1967. “It will be a key factor in selection of candidates for both the parties this time also. However, except Muslims, other communities never vote en-bloc for any party in Gujarat, so local equations will play an important role,” he says.