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India elections: Caste, religion still play bigger role than factors like inequality, says study


New Delhi, March 25: Although inequalities in education and employment in India are often talked about as major ills for our democracy, it is not that these factors make a big impact on the election scene. On the other hand, factors like caste identities and religious conflicts remain big determinants in elections in India. A paper by Abhijit Banerjee, an economist from MIT, and Amory Gethin and Thomas Piketty from Paris School of Economics, has shown this.

India elections: Caste, religion still play bigger role than factors like inequality, says study

The paper has tracked evolution of political divisions between 1962 and 2014 using surveys and election results and concluded that the BJP and other right-wing parties disproportionately attract upper-caste votes.

Citing the findings, the Economic Times said in its report that over 60 per cent of Brahmin and nearly 50 per cent of other forward caste electors backed the BJP in 2014, compared to 30 per cent of SC/ST and only 10 per cent of Muslim electors. The Congress and other centrist partues were more popular among the OBCs and Muslims while among the SC/STs and OBCs, the Left was most preferred.

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It further said that voters from the upper castes, high-income groups and university graduate classes used to back the right-wing parties till the mid-1990s. However, in 2014, the report said, factors like social class, income and education played little significant role in explaining why the voters chose between the BJP, Congress and other parties.

The ET report concluded by saying that in state elections, too, caste and religion remained the two most important factors determining people's voting behaviour instead of social class.

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