Wednesday, November 24, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Not caste in stone (Opinion)

FE Editorial : Not caste in stone
The Financial Express
Posted online: 2010-11-25 01:35:42+05:30

Analysts will debate the Nitish Kumar landslide till the cows come
home. Was it the development card he played (tells you just how much
the traditional politician cares about development) and is caste dead?
Or did the canny Nitish do development in certain pockets only (how do
you build roads only to certain villages?)? Does the fact that Muslims
have voted for Nitish suggest the BJP's brand of communal politics has
been rejected? When one TV journalist posed this to BJP spokesperson
Nirmala Sitharaman, she was quick to say the BJP had done even better
in Muslim localities—at the overall level, while Nitish won 82% of the
seats contested, the BJP won 89%.

Since the Election Commission doesn't put out voting patterns on caste
or religious lines, we'll never know for certain. For what it's worth,
former chief economic advisor Arvind Virmani has recirculated a 2004
paper suggesting it's economic growth that determines victory—for
those readying to scoff, Virmani says GDP growth actually reduced in
the Vajpayee years and that's why the NDA lost. Others, like columnist
Surjit Bhalla, suggest it is the work on getting the girl-child to
school, some say it is reservation of panchayats for women, others
talk of law and order, roads … Each is true, and each is inadequate.
With women comprising 47% of the strength of gram panchayats, Nitish
has done a great job, but with just 33% women in Gujarat panchayats,
Narendra Modi has also managed quite well; infant mortality in Bihar
is down from around 62 per 1,000 to 57 now, but that in West Bengal
where the communists are in trouble is just 35. If it's roads, no one
can beat Atal Bihari Vajpayee … Perhaps the safest comment is that
caste matters at a certain level of development and economic growth—so
a Lalu promising empowerment to Yadavs works for a while, but it's
jobs and growth that matters eventually. Hopefully, the threshold
below which caste matters is getting raised all the time. Another
thing that looks clear is the Rahul brand of trashing everyone except
the Congress doesn't work.


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