A blow to the caste system - Macleans.ca

A blow to the caste system

Economic progress in the state of Bihar counted for more than Kumar’s lower caste


A blow to the caste system

Economic progress in the state of Bihar counted for more than Kumar’s lower caste | Aftab Alam Siddiqui/AP

In the Indian state of Bihar (pop. 80 million), voters chose growth and development over traditional caste-based politics in this month’s election. Nitish Kumar, the lower-caste chief minister first elected in 2005, got an even stronger mandate when his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) party and its allies earned more than four-fifths of the state’s 243 seats. His main competitor, Lalu Prasad Yadav, got just 22 seats.

Yadav and his wife had taken turns running Bihar from 1990 to 2005, and were always re-elected despite little economic progress. Amberish Diwanji of Rediff.com documented how they stayed in power: “Sir, we vote as per our caste, nothing else,” a high-caste man told the journalist in 2005. “Lalu Yadav is a rascal, he has done nothing, but as a Yadav, I have to vote for his party.” Not this time. Kumar has built schools, distributed bicycles, cut down on bribery, and built roads that attract investment. Travel times have been halved and economic growth is now the highest in India at over 11 per cent. Kumar’s victory is proof that jobs can trump tradition.


A blow to the caste system

  1. Positive change for an antiquated system…

  2. I think there's more to the situation than just economic success. Nitish Kumar was reelected because of the competence of his administration, and its relative lack of corruption, from which the economic benefits to the state were only a symptom. In many forums in other news media, I've seen obviously high caste Indians flatly deny there is any caste structure in India anymore, and after all, in India, the high castes are the people in charge, so what they say goes, as far as the rest of the castes are concerned.

    I think the majority of people in India are crying out in desperation and sometimes despair for competence in their governments, and just a modicum of honesty. They will do anything to get what they have never had before, in what often seems like 2,500 years.