Identity vs Benefits
A gentleman I was talking to yesterday proclaimed “You know, in India the root problem is that everyone votes for their caste”. I was stunned because it was not really related to what we were talking about, but I said, “I wish that were true”. He was taken aback a bit.
Sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to explain. The same is the case of identity vs benefits. Almost everyday you see a bunch of TV intellectuals predicting who would be the “Obama of India”. Presumably, they want to guess who will be the person of ‘an unexpected identity’ who will lead India. They show complete ignorance of the Indian system.
First of all, what does the word – ‘Voting for ones caste’ mean ?
a) It is natural for voters to prefer a person of their own identity. Would you not vote for your uncle if he stood for office ?
If Indians voted for candidates of their own caste, it is not a big problem at all. You could neutralize it by fielding an opposing candidate from the same caste in areas where such a preference would dictate outcomes. In other words, Laloos candidate could be checked by a Yadav candidate from the BJP, or PMKs candidate could be checked by a Vanniar from the AIADMK. Now, identity having been neutralized – presumably the majority voting group can vote on larger interests.
Does this happen ? No. Because, India is not America. Identity is meaningless without benefits in India. A person representing an interest group can ill afford to work or big ticket items. His position will be endangered by a rival who can position himself to represent the group better.
It is identity coupled with unmonitored benefits. Silly.
Ok, now who will be Indias Obama ?
We have another TV intellectual ties himself up in knots in comparing caste with race.
Ram Guha starts off by trying to fit a square peg (Ambedkar) in a round hole (Obama). Not sure if it fit, he then tries Nehru (a triangular peg). That does not fit either. So he just gives up and throws everything in the trash.
He thinks Nitish Kumar is Indias Obama. Whoooo ! Look at this gem.
In so far as he is not sectarian, does not come from a political dynasty, appears to be honest and committed to good governance for all — not just a particular caste or religious grouping — Nitish Kumar may be considered to fit the bill. He is no Barack Obama, but he is certainly much less unlike Obama than, say, Mayavati or Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi. An India of 15 or 20 chief ministers in his mould would be a better, or least a less unhappy and less violent, place.
Source : Ram Guha’s article in The Telegraph
Dear God !
>> An India of 15 or 20 chief ministers >>
I have news for you Mr Ram Guha, India already has 15-20 CMs in this mould. More will follow after the next elections. So where is my ‘less violent place’.
Nitish is a protector of unmonitored benefits to a group, just like Laloo is, just like Kirori Bainsala is, like Jayalatita is, like Karunanidhi is, like Achutanandan is. Protectors of group benefits are not an exception in Indian politics, they are the rule. In the next elections, they will strengthen further. Nitish is not an outside figure uniting the ravaged Bihari people without regard for caste/creed.
Perhaps, Guha is the Indian Idol (sorry Indian Obama) !