Reality Check India

National parties fight to the finish

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 16, 2007

I just got back from a trip. Regular blogging will start now.

The most accurate poll observer award

The Reality Check poll observer award goes to (drumroll) Chandrabhan Prasad. Forget all the CNN-IBN, NDTV, Zee, exit pollsters. Look at what he predicted a week before counting started. See his article “Age of OBC Isolation” in the Daily Pioneer

After a three week long sojourn in UP, I can make yet another risk-free prediction – OBCs are going to face a political isolation in the Hindi heartland.

Strange as it may appear, the OBC claiming Mandal legacy or the legacy of social justice in particular are not at all wanted. Any party advocating the Mandal will face a sure marginalisation. The Congress had better watch this.

My take on the current UP caste combo

The UP election results have put some smiles on the faces of brahmins and other upper castes. Is the unlikely Dalit / Brahmin partnership going to be a trend ? Historically, the Dalit / Brahmin interaction has been minimal. Now, for the first time, circumstances have pushed them onto a common platform. Do we see a great opportunity here to sound the death knell for the caste system ? Is this the way to snatch the social initiative from vested interests and secular casteists ? I think this is a golden opportunity. The brahmins must come forward in UP and take steps to enhance the ritual status of Dalits as a first step. The bonds must strengthen further.  Lets see.

Effect of narrowing interests – death to national parties

I have mentioned Mancur Olsen several times in this blog (just search using the box on the right).  His landmark book “The Rise and Decline of Nations” seems to be playing out in India in live action. In this book there is this theory. When there are two choices – one which works for the whole and another that works exclusively for your group. The choice is clear. It is a no contest. Working for the whole is too much work, for a disproportionately small share of the benefits.  It is like asking for primary education for all.

The OBC quota issue represents the latest form of narrowing of interests. Instead of working for the whole (which in this context would mean a more sociologically solid data based approach to social justice) – you just promise things to certain groups.

The BJP, Congress, and Communists want to play this game. They want to emulate the Laloos, Karunanidhis, Mulayams.  I dont blame them for it. After all, which politician doesnt want this kind of captive vote bank.

Unfortunately, they dont realize that this doesnt play well with their national stature. Even if Arjun Singh bends himself out of shape in getting the quota – the Congress will still lose its deposits if it contests alone in TN. A Yadav will still vote for Laloo or Mulayam. Why ? Because the voter knows that these guys are going to work almost exclusively for their group (caste).

I see gloomy times ahead for the two parties. There is almost nothing they can do now. They started the deathmatch between themselves. It is just that both of them are going to be buried.

10 Responses

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  1. Allblogspots said, on May 16, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    nice blog

  2. Xtraview said, on May 16, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Nice contemporary analysis.
    I will pose another dimension to it.
    A shift is taking place wherein increased economic opportunities (in IT, private sector) are taken up by the dominant upper caste/classes while politics and public sector positions are being taken up increasingly by backward castes. They are driven more by security needs and power as an instrument for their mobility. Politically, they are much closer to or are in alliance with Khastriya caste (confrontation …Agrarianism …state subsidy) as they need to have control over state patronage.

    This is where the resistance to reform and english language can be interpreted. Becasue the OBCs see this rent dispensing mechanism (state) to benefit their lot in the long run just as it have had helped the Suvarna castes earlier, after independence.

    Also, the traditional buisness community is still in ambivalence as they are struggling to balance the need for ‘protection’ versus ‘competetion’.

    This new Brahmin -Dalit friendship can only bring about real transformation by its impact on the reforms at the administrative and economic level. But if it remained at the political level, the current equilibrium will remain highly susceptible to instablity.

  3. Barbarindian said, on May 17, 2007 at 2:05 am

    A shift is taking place wherein increased economic opportunities (in IT, private sector) are taken up by the dominant upper caste/classes while politics and public sector positions are being taken up increasingly by backward castes.

    Do you have any stats to back it up? By very generous estimates, the “new opportunity” type jobs are at the most 3 million. Does not look like a fabulous opportunity for any community in a country of more than a billion.

    The economic opportunities have not really increased much for the average Joe. But for OBCs this looks like a lottery. Notice that the noise is always centered around the “money” seats like IIT and IIMs. Total combined money seats are less than 10,000 in the central institutes. Even if they double or treble, does not look like a huge opportunity.

  4. Xtraview said, on May 17, 2007 at 2:59 am

    “Do you have any stats to back it up?”

    Unfortunately our staticians are more busy counting poor. Caste based data for macro analysis is ‘accidental’.
    However, it shouldn’t refrain one from identifying trends from whatever fragments of data that are available.
    For example, if we consider organized sector, we narrow down ourselves to almost 3-4% from a billion plus population.
    If we disegregate middle classes (estimates vary from 240-350 million), we get some clue. Almost 67% are public sector dependent.
    If we see caste profile, the trend of middle class shows increase in dominant castes (read OBCs) proportion within middle classes that are mostly farming elites.
    (See Sridharan/ pranab Bardhan for the decomposition of middle classes from official data)
    Now,we have some sample studies decomposing IT sector, pointing out upto 60-70 percent Brahmin share (See Saxena 1999, Taeube 2004)
    They also point out, relatively very low involvement of Vaishya caste share in IT.
    Unfortunately, most of government recruitment data is categorized in SC ST and Other, only exception is the NSS that did (accidentally) added the category of OBCs (see Sundaram for detail analysis)

    Put in some of the ethnography studies looking at the generational shifts, take a visit to the throbbing New Delhi Centres for civil service preparations, add your own observation of the neighborhood high caste officer whose son is now in America and one can put two and two together.

    I know It is hard, unreliable, bordering more on intution than facts, but still the option is either not to look or just try to make some sense. The biggest folly of the public policy in India is not to collect data on caste, despite it being the the central axis around which politics is interpreted.

    I guess the bigger question is why do we really shy away from it?

  5. Barbarindian said, on May 17, 2007 at 3:19 am

    Just a rhetorical question, if it turns out that OBCs have a lower average IQ (blacks in America have a 10 point lower IQ according to some sources, I think Levitt mentioned it too), how do you think the whole thing will pan out?

  6. Xtraview said, on May 17, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Now I am just curious to know your IQ Barber Indian.
    On second thought…forget it.

  7. Memory said, on May 18, 2007 at 9:45 am

    //Is the unlikely Dalit / Brahmin partnership going to be a trend ? Historically, the Dalit / Brahmin interaction has been minimal. Now, for the first time, circumstances have pushed them onto a common platform//
    “First” time !! What about the alliance in 2002 Why did it break of Which community betrayed which community in 2002.

  8. Revathi said, on May 18, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I think that it is pretty shameful that people in India are getting more aware of their caste in each coming generation. Perhaps everyone should try and do a mayawathi- just use one name.

  9. Jai_Choorakkot said, on May 19, 2007 at 4:08 am

    Agree with revathi. I can hardly tell a vokkaliga from a lingayat or jat from kurmi from yadav, and wouldnt bother if they identified themselves by caste tag either. Somehow thought that was an ideal situation to be in.

    But it is increasingly beginning to look like we all need to identify by caste 😦


  10. Barbarindian said, on May 21, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Please rate the PM:

    Spread the word.

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