Casting votes, minus the caste

Casting votes, minus the caste

Trapped in the arithmetics of caste, Karnataka politics might seem adamantly one-tracked. But Bangalore’s migrant, cosmopolitan voters offer an almost accidental alternative: A hitherto unseen deviation from caste-oriented voting, a trend triggered by their virtual ignorance of the candidate’s caste-linked surname.

Banking heavily on their caste identities, the candidates often overlook Bangalore’s demographics. Their calculations hover around the Kannadiga voters, but they constitute not more than 42 per cent of the city’s electorate. Caught up in their immediate urban issues, removed from the complex layers of local casteist politics, the Bengalis, Malayalis and Punjabis fail to fathom the mathematics of it all. That only gets tougher when caste is masked in local lingo.

“Caste has absolutely no role to play in how Bengalis vote. They only look at the party and the issue,” contends a Bengali Association member. That finds an echo among Malayalis and Tamilians. Even the Oriyas. “We don’t even understand the local candidates’ surnames that might reveal their castes. Even if we did, our voting wouldn’t be influenced by it,” points out Haraprasad Mohapatra, a Bangalorean since 1994, and a representative of the city’s estimated six-lakh Oriya-speakers.

The big chunk of North Indians too fail to grasp the caste dynamics here. Despite his long years in Karnataka politics, BJP MLC Lehar Singh had not seen a change in that perception. “The Rajasthanis, Gujaratis and Biharis settled in Bangalore never vote on caste lines here. They might do so in their native states, not here. They simply don’t know the caste, and are not bothered either,” notes Singh.

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