Candidate selection by parties forces caste out of LS-2024 equations in U’khand

Tuesday, 16 APRIL  2024 | Gajendra Singh Negi | DEHRADUN

As it happens in many parts of the country, caste factor has always influenced the outcome of the elections in Uttarakhand. However, in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, caste, which sadly has always remained a major subject in electoral battles in the past, is no longer an issue this time. Interestingly, the caste is out of the electoral politics of LS -2024 battle not due to any social reform or enlightenment of the electorate but due to major political parties- BJP and Congress –having fielded candidates of same castes in all the LS constituencies of the State.

 Keeping the caste equations in mind, both Congress and BJP have given tickets to two Brahmins and two Rajputs each in the State. In all the four unreserved constituencies, the candidates of same caste are fielded against one another, rendering the caste factor inconsequential in 2024 Lok Sabha hustings.

 In Tehri, the BJP has reposed faith in the sitting MP Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah from the erstwhile ruling family while Congress has fielded Jot Singh Gunsola, a Rajput leader. The independent candidate the young Bobby Panwar who is trying hard to make the battle three- cornered also belongs to Rajput caste.

 In neighbouring Garhwal constituency which has always remained a hot-bed of caste politics, the ruling BJP has given its ticket to national spokesperson Anil Baluni while Congress has fielded former Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Ganesh Godiyal. Here also both the candidates are Brahmins. In the LS elections of 2019, BJP’s Teerath Singh Rawat trounced his rival Manish Khanduri of Congress by a margin of about three lakh votes.

In terms of the caste equations, the Garhwal LS constituency is dominated by the Rajputs which constitutes about 50 per cent of the electorate; Brahmins are about 25 per cent while 20 per cent of the population is of Dalits. In Haridwar LS constituency, former chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat of BJP and son of former CM Harish Rawat, Virendra Rawat of Congress are in the fray and both of them are Rajputs.

 A similar situation prevails in Nainital- Udham Singh Nagar constituency where both BJP and Congress have given tickets to Brahmin candidates. Here BJPs’s union minister of State Ajay Bhatt is locked in an electoral battle with Congress party’s Prakash Joshi.

 Many in Uttarakhand opine that the caste as mode of garnering votes in elections was initiated prominently in the famous by- election of 1982 when Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna contested from Garhwal LS constituency as an independent candidate against Chandra Mohan Singh Negi of Congress.

 Senior journalist Jay Singh Rawat told The Pioneer that the history of caste based politics in Uttarakhand started in early 1990s when Sarola Sabha was founded by Tara Dutt Gairola. The higher caste Brahmins were included in the Sarola Sabha. Rawat said that in response to this organisation, Kshatriya Sabha was founded by Kotwal Singh Negi and others. He added that the politicians try to create a wedge in society during elections in the name of caste but people in Uttarakhand have always lived in harmony with one another.

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