Friday, May 06, 2011

Dalits will vote only for Dalits?

I think the reservation of constituencies for a particular community is undemocratic and a violation of the constitutional rights of other communities. I support the abolition of reserved constituencies for SCs and STs in Parliament, Assemblies and Local Bodies. I also oppose women's reservation and the existence of nominated members for Anglo-Indians.

However, I do not oppose affirmative action in educational opportunities or public sector jobs. I want such reservation to be put to vote in state legislatures every year! But legislature itself is far too important an instrument of public opinion and representative democracy to be tinkered in the name of affirmative action. I have written how my right to contest elections is under threat because of caste, a system I oppose, and gender which I'm not responsible for.

Incidentally, BBMP has a rather funny circular reservation policy, which for the most part throws up incompetent people to be elected as Councilors and later as Mayor and the Deputy. Few days ago in the Mayoral election, only two incompetent women (who's husbands already call the shots) were available to be elected. And the deputy mayorship also went like this to a man from a particular caste.

While the Koramangala Smartvote campaign was on, people were miffed that only a particular community candidate could contest from Koramangala when that community has negligible presence in the constituency. However I opposed any move by Smartvote to challenge this affirmative action because of the randomness 'protection' inherent in the reservation policy!!

Now, The Hindu today has published a research, Does political reservation affect voter turnout?, which is kind of bizarre. The research notes that non-SCs have no biases against voting for SCs in reserved constituencies but the SCs themselves vote in droves when only members of their community are contesting elections. And the researchers claim that the conclusion of their research is that Political Affirmative action is good.

If anything, the research should only be used as an argument against reservation. If its empirically provable that non-SCs are not biased against voting for SCs, then it calls into question, the whole policy of reservation. I emphasize on empirical data, because there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that in many villages of Tamilnadu, non-SCs are not willing to vote for SCs. The more famous cases being Pappapatti and Keerippatti.

However, this research is flawed. Its very much expected that community votes for members of their community is high irrespective of whether its SCs or others. And its even possible that non-SCs are biased against SC candidates when there are non-SC options available. I just wonder how the above researchers came to such a conclusion.

disclosure: i'm right liberal.