While turning the pages of our newspaper, we come across much debate on caste based voting or vote bank. Do you think, only vote bank decides the winners in election these days? There is actually no straightforward yes or no answer to that but yes caste is not the only determining factor anymore.
Corruption and group-based (caste/class) voting are the two well-known features of Indian politics. According to the Global Corruption Barometer Survey of 2013 by Transparency International, more than half of the 1,025 Indian respondents reported having paid a bribe in the past year.
An average educatedcitizen (or even uneducated with plenty of common sense) would wonder if there is a correlation between these results and political corruption, specifically! As it is they give a lot of thought -– especially around the polling season – to find answers to such questions as:
How do socio-economic classes contribute in the polling outcome besides the caste?
If caste and class determine voting behaviour, what are the factors that control the corruption among the parties?
The present is an abstract of a research paper which proposes a model that addresses these questions in the Indian political system.
Voters in India are often perceived as being biased in favour of parties that claim to represent their caste. A model-based research by Avidit Acharya, John E. Roemer and Rohini Somanathan explored the relationship between voters’ caste, socio-economic class and their loyalties to political parties during elections.
They further examined the influence of group- bias on the part of voters on the distributive policies and corruption practices of major political parties in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.)
The2is asked Prof.S.K.Dwivedi, a leading political scientist of Lucknow, whether general perception on corrupt practices of parties has any correlation with the voters’ choice of the candidate: “Actually public has a very short term memory so despite being well informed on the malpractices of a party they get overwhelmed by other factors closer to their heart and by the time election comes the electorate are brain washed and cast their votes in favour of the one whom they perceive as sympathetic to their own specific interests. Of course there are also enlightened people amongst us who do not choose blindly but they are few and far between!”
On class-bias molding the results of election especially in North India, Prof. Dwivedi, says, “Though caste is undeniably a major factor here, I would say that socio-economic class does play a role in the flow of votes in a certain direction. For instance, the poor and downtrodden – and here comes the caste element as SC/ST form the majority of this class – have high hopes attached to the BSP irrespective of its other shortcomings; their minds go something like: Maya behen (sister) is one of our own so she is most likely to pay attention to our welfare. So we can say that income class in combination with caste decides the destiny of a party in this region.”
For the purpose of the present study, the researchers used survey data that they had collected in 2008-2009 from U.P. Their model predicts that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which was in power at the time of the survey, would be significantly less corrupt in a world without caste-based preferences. Focus in this paper is on class-based policies as neither the BSP nor the SP – the two major political parties in UP – has a large enough caste base for victory and the OBCs are almost twice as numerous as the SCs.
Voters in the model have both a caste identity and belong to one of three income classes: rich, middle or poor.
Table 2: Choice of Party: (Which party do you think will be the best party for U.P.?)Parties and Voters: The model included the four prominent parties in Uttar Pradesh. These are the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Views on Caste and PoliticsAs apparent from the table above, BJP enjoys the maximum loyalties of the middle income group from general (caste) category and BSP gets the minimum. Exact opposite is seen where Poor income group belonging to Scheduled Cast & tribe is concerned: BSP gains and hence overcomes with the help of this particular group while BJP lags far behind thus completely overturning the overall results where BJP gets only 50% of loyalties as compared to BSP!
Table 3: (If this party were in power in UP and had a budget of Rs. 1000 to spend, how much of that money do you think would actually get spent on the development of UP?)
The high standard deviations(SD) in the responses reflect a lack of agreement about the quality of politicians, perhaps reflecting the voters’ biased views towards parties.
The fact that parties are associated with particular castes means that on average voters of each caste group have biases in favor of their associated party.Now, imagine a world in which the U.P. voting population has no caste bias, but is otherwise the same as the actual voting population.Research question: How would the political parties’ corruption levels change if all political caste bias in U.P. were to be eliminated?
Results of the studyindicate that in a world without caste bias, the BSP offers higher distribution shares to all three groups (the middle class, poor, and rich) and has a lower level of corruption. In particular, moving from a world with caste bias to a world without caste bias, the average distributions of the BSP to the rich, middle class and poor rise by 348:89%, 90:69% and 30:16% respectively, while its corruption declines by 42:66%.Onthe other hand, the distribution of the SP to poor rises, but its distribution to the rich and middle class declines. Also, on average the SP is slightly more corrupt. Specifically, moving from a world with caste bias to a world without caste bias, the average distribution of the SP to the rich and middle class decline by 19:89% and 9:68% respectively, while its average distribution to the poor rises by 8:78% and its average corruption rises by 1:52%.
So, while the BSP becomes much less corrupt in a world without caste bias, the SP on the other hand becomes slightly more corrupt. Moreover, it can be safely assumed that class politics plays an important role in winning an election as depicted in the Table 2.
By Avidit Acharya, John E. Roemer and Rohini Somanathan
Acharya: Department of Political Science, Stanford University, Encina Hall West Rm. 406, Stanford CA 94305-6044 (email:[email protected]); Roemer: Departments of Political Science and Economics, Yale University, PO Box 208301, New Haven CT 06520-8301 (email: [email protected]); Somanathan: Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India (email:[email protected]).
Those interested in details may access the Research paper at http://stanford.edu/~avidit/caste.pdf