Caste and Micro-Politics of Electoral Democracy
This research explores changes in electoral politics of a village, following the extension of reservations in village panchayats (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and the political rise of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at the national level. This presentation shows how different caste groups in the category of OBCs participate in electoral politics at the village level. It focuses on the ways in which existing socio-economic inequalities and cultural differences within the category of OBC influence political participation of the constituting groups. Recent field research on OBCs in a north Indian village and its locale, reveals there has been a marked change in the relations of domination and subordination between upper castes and the OBCs in rural western Uttar Pradesh (UP). However, I argue that within the OBCs, the new conditions have reproduced power relations in new modalities. Despite radical changes in the rural power structure of UP, lower OBCs, particularly landless and artisan-service caste groups, remain marginal in local politics. Caste associations, political parties and leaders, ideology, and wealth have influenced the working of the village level government and rural power relations. By examining village and its locale politics, this research illustrates the potentiality and limitations of electoral politics in UP.
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