Caste leaders in Rajasthan jump for fair share in Assembly polls

Pic Credits- Times of India

As leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress work over their lists of candidates for the December 7 Rajasthan assembly elections, caste groups in the state are flexing themselves to seek their share of tickets.

By Koushik Narayanan

Rajasthan: More than six caste groups held meetings or press conferences in Jaipur this month to demand tickets from the Congress and the BJP for the upcoming assembly polls in Rajasthan.

The Meenas, under the banner of the Akhil Bhartiya Meen Sangh, wrote to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah on October 19 to demand 15 tickets from each. The group claimed that Meenas comprised 7.5% of the state’s 13.5% scheduled tribe population.

In 2013, the BJP fielded 16 Meenas, of whom 10 won whereas Congress fielded 17 Meenas but only two were elected to the assembly. The two parties also respectively fielded 12 and 13 Bhil candidates, who are in the ST category.

Notably, in Rajasthan, 25 seats in the 200-member assembly are reserved for STs.

On October 21, the Akhil Bhartiya Bairwa Mahasabha demanded 11 seats at a press conference in Jaipur. Bairwas, a scheduled caste said its members should get two tickets in Jaipur and one each in Alwar, Bundi, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dausa, Kota, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur and Tonk.

“There are about 1.7 million Bairwas in Rajasthan. In 2013, the BJP fielded eight candidates from our caste, and the Congress gave tickets to six. Four won on BJP tickets. This year, we are demanding 11 seats,” said the Mahasabha’s national president, Hari Narayan Bairwa. 34 seats reserved for SCs in Rajasthan.

The Mali community, to which former chief minister Ashok Gehlot belongs, has demanded tickets from 20 assembly constituencies, where, according to the Rajasthan Mali (Saini) Mahasabha, they are at least 25,000 in number. “We are at least 200,000 in 15 Lok Sabha constituencies,” said the organization’s president, Chuttan Lal Saini. In 2013, the Congress gave tickets to five Mali candidates, and the BJP and the BSP to four each.

The Jats, the Kumhars/Prajapatis and the Brahmins have also held press conferences and discussions to demand their share of tickets from both the parties.

“Caste has become a political tool. Initially, the political parties used caste, now the caste groups are using political parties to cement their identities and consciousness,” said Rajiv Gupta, former head of sociology at the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur.

Bairwa agreed that doing politics of caste was unhealthy for a democracy. “But when political parties say they will consider caste equations, too, while deciding tickets, we feel compelled to make our claim,” he said.

BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek said in all elections, communities seek tickets on the basis of their population and that is their right. “They have affection for the BJP, so accordingly have expectations. BJP workers work in all communities and sections; those who are eligible and winnable are considered during ticket distribution. We ensure representation to all communities,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said, “During elections, such demands are raised by communities and there is nothing wrong in it. The Congress has always taken everyone along from all communities and sections of society.”