In contemporary India, there exists a close connection between politics and caste. Although the influence of caste as a social institution has diminished over time, it remains a significant factor in political dynamics. This is primarily due to the growing importance of the “politics of numbers.” The terms “politicization of caste “and “casteization of politics” are used to describe this relationship, with slight differences: the former refers to the mobilization of caste for political purposes, while the latter denotes the emergence of regional political parties based on caste considerations.

The modern democratic system grants every adult the right to vote, which has led to increased aspirations and awareness among marginalized castes who seek a fair share of power. Consequently, political participation becomes a crucial avenue for social mobility.

In response, higher castes sometimes vote along caste lines to protect their traditional positions in society. While the theoretical relationship between caste and politics is positive, its practical implications have presented several challenges to democracy:
• Divisive campaigns employed by different political parties often mobilize people along narrow and parochial lines.
• The rise in political participation of various castes has allowed individuals from middle and lower castes to become political elites. However, these new elites are often driven by identity politics and lack a strong commitment to principled pursuit of power.
• Caste-based politics is prone to inciting violence and fostering animosity among different segments of society, undermining social cohesion.
• The distribution of political party tickets is influenced by caste considerations, as parties tend to prioritize candidates from influential caste groups with significant electoral support.

Conclusion/Way forward:
While the interplay between caste and politics contributes to political consciousness, the current trend of overemphasizing caste identity poses a challenge to India’s democratic framework. While such politics may aim to address the marginalization of specific communities, defining politics solely on the basis of caste identity undermines the broader principles of democracy.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish December 29, 2023