The arrangement of several caste groups in a particular order of relationship in society constitutes the caste system.
When caste acts as the basis of social behaviour it is called casteism. Caste, caste system and casteism all constitute an input of politics in India.
Caste and casteism have been challenges and hindering factors in India.
The Negative and Harmful role of Casteism:
(1) Caste based Political Socialisation:
Different caste groups have their loyalties behind different political parties and their ideologies. Right from his birth an Indian citizen inherits a caste and grows up as a member of a particular caste group. He belongs either to one of the High Castes or to Scheduled Castes families.
In the process of picking up his political orientations, attitude and beliefs, he naturally comes under the influence of caste groups and casteism. ‘Caste values’ and ‘caste interests’ influence his socialisation and consequently, his political thinking, awareness and participation. He banks upon caste solidarity for occupying and performing a leadership recruitment role. This factor has been a source of trouble for India.
(2) Caste based Leadership Recruitment:
Caste influences the process of leadership recruitment. This is particularly true of ‘Caste conscious’ people of states like Haryana, Bihar, Tamil nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In Haryana the leadership comes either from Vishno is or Brahmins. In Andhra Pradesh the Reddys, or Kammds and Valamas provide state leaders.
(3) Caste based Party Politics:
Caste factor is a constituent of Indian party system. Some of the political parties have direct caste basis while others indirectly bank upon particular caste groups. In particular, the regional political parties stand predominantly influenced by the caste factor. The DMK and AlADMK are non-Brahmin rather anti-Brahmin political parties of Tamil Nadu. In Punjab Akali Dal has a Jat based identity? It stands influenced by the issue of Jats vs non-Jats. All political parties in India use caste as a means for securing votes in elections. BSP banks upon the support of Scheduled Castes, while the BJP largely banks upon its popularly among Hindus.
(4) Caste and Casteism in Indian Elections:
The caste factor continues to be a major factor of electoral politics in India. All political parties give great weightage to the caste factor in selecting their candidates, in allocating constituencies to their candidates and in canvassing support for their nominees in the election.
In constituencies predominated by Muslims, Muslim candidates are fielded and in areas predominated by Jats, Jat candidates are fielded. Even the self-justifying secularist parties take into consideration caste factor in selecting their candidates. In the election campaigns, votes are demanded in the name of caste. Caste groups are tapped for committed support.
(5) Caste as a source Divisions:
Caste acts both as a unifying and dividing force in Indian politics. It provides a basis for the emergence of several interest groups in the Indian system each of which competes with every other group. Unfortunately caste and casteism have been leading to unhealthy struggle for power and acting as a divisive force. The existence of two or three big caste groups has been always a source of factionalism in India society and politics. Caste as such is a factor in Indian politics and it has been acting mostly as a dividing factor.
(6) Role of Caste in Government-Making:
Since caste is a major feature of Indian society and acts as an important factor in various processes of politics, it also plays a basic role in the decision-making process. Even the issue of re-organisation of states is handled with an eye upon the prevention of undue predominance of a caste group in a particular territory. Caste factor influences the policies and decisions of the state governments.
The party in power tries to use its decision-making power to win the favour of major caste groups. Congress, BSP, JP, JD, RLC infact most of the political parties always try to nurture people belonging to Scheduled Castes as its vote banks. Regional political parties, whenever these get the chance to rule their respective states, always use political power for furthering the interests of the caste groups which support or can support their regimes.
Recruitment to political offices is mostly done with due considerations for the caste of the persons. The caste factor always acts as a determinant of people’s voting behaviour, their political participation, the party structure and even of the governmental decision-making.
(7) Caste and Local Politics:
In the Indian rural context, caste has been a plank of mobilisation, a channel of communication, representation and leadership and a linkage between the electorate and the political process. The role of caste in the working of Panchayati Raj and other institutions of local self-government has been a recognised reality. We can go to the extent of recording that caste based factionalism in rural areas of India has been one of the most major hindering factor in the organisation and effective working of Panchayati Raj and Urban local institutions.
(8) Caste Violence:
Caste based violence very often finds its way into politics. The traditional differences between higher and lower castes have acquired a new vigour and have turned, at times, into a violent and fierce struggle for power in society.
The growing terrorisation of the lower castes by the higher or even intermediary castes has been becoming a part of rural India’s political reality. In states like Maharashtra, Bihar, and Gujarat and UP, caste violence has raised its head even in some urban areas. In 2007 we all witnessed with great narrow the Gujjar Violence in Rajasthan. Thus, caste has been to playing a major role in all dimensions of Indian political process.