Caste and Congress are closely linked- B.R. Ambedkar-1954

The Congress always wins, so it is found. But no one asks why does the Congress win ? The answer is that Congress is very popular. But why is the Congress popular ? The true answer is that Congress always puts up candidates which belong to castes which are in the majority in the constituencies. Caste and Congress are closely linked. It is by exploiting the caste system that the Congress wins.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (14th April 1891 – 6th December 1956)


Politics is nothing if not realistic. There is very little in it that is academic. It is therefore follows that before passing any judgement on any scheme of politics it is essential that one must consider the ground plan.

Someone may ask what do I mean by “Ground Plan”. To me the ground plan means the social structure of a community to which the political plan is sought to be applied.

It needs no argument to show that the political structure rests on the social structure. Indeed the social structure has a profound effect on the political structure. It may modify it in its working. It may nullify it or it may even make a mockery of it.

In the case of India the social structure is built up on the caste system, the special product of Hindu civilization and culture. The caste system is so well known that one need not wait to explain its nature. One can straight proceed to show what effect it is likely to have on Linguistic States.

There are some peculiar features of the caste system which must however be noted—

(1) Castes are so distributed that in any given area there is one caste which is major and there are others which are small and are subservient to the major caste owing to their comparative smallness and their economic dependence upon the major caste which owns most of the land in the village.

(2) The caste system is marked not merely by inequality but is affected by the system of graded inequality. All castes are not on a par. They are one above the other. There is a kind of ascending scale of hatred and a descending scale of contempt.

(3) A caste has all the exclusiveness and pride which a nation has. It is therefore not improper to speak of collection of castes as a collection of major and minor nations.

I am sorry, I cannot illustrate these points by reference to facts and figures. The census which is the only source of information on these points fails to help me. The last census omits altogether the caste tables which had been the feature of the Indian census ever since its birth. The Home Minister of the Government of India who is responsible for this omission was of the opinion that if a word does not exist in a dictionary it can be proved that the fact for which the word stands does not exist. One can only pity the petty intelligence of the author. The consequences of the caste system on politics are quite obvious. The interesting part is to see what effect it has upon elections which is the foundation of Representative Government which is reared up on a system of single member constituencies.

The effects may be summarized as follows :

(1) Voting is always communal. The voter votes for the candidate of his community and not for the best candidate.

(2) The majority community carries the seat by sheer communal majority.

(3) The minority community is forced to vote for the candidate of the majority community.

(4) The votes of the minority community are not enough to enable the candidate to win the seat against the candidate put up by the majority community.

(5) As consequence of social system of graded inequality the voter of the higher (major) communities can never condescend to give his vote to a candidate of a minority community. On the other hand the voter of the minority community who is socially on a lower level takes pride in giving his vote to the candidate of the majority community. That is another reason why a candidate of a minority community loses in election.

The Congress always wins, so it is found. But no one asks why does the Congress win ? The answer is that Congress is very popular. But why is the Congress popular ? The true answer is that Congress always puts up candidates which belong to castes which are in the majority in the constituencies. Caste and Congress are closely linked. It is by exploiting the caste system that the Congress wins.

These evil consequences of the caste system are sure to be sharpened by creation of Linguistic States. Minority communities may be crushed. If not crushed they may be tyrannized and oppressed. They are sure to be discriminated against and denied equality before law and equal opportunity in public life.

The history of nations and the changes in their idealogies have been well traced by Lord Action :

“In the old European system, the rights of nationalities were neither recognized by governments nor asserted by the people. The interest of the reigning families, not those of the nations, regulated the frontiers, and the administration was conducted generally without any reference to popular desires. Where all liberties were suppressed, the claims of national independence were necessarily ignored, and a princess, in the words of Fenelon, carried a monarchy in her wedding portion.”

Nationalities were at first listless. When they became conscious :

“They first rose against their conquerors in defence of their legitimate rulers. They refused to be governed by usurpers. Next came a time when they revolted because of the wrongs inflicted upon them by their rulers. The insurrections were provoked by particular grievances justified by definite complaints. Then came the French Revolution which effected  a complete change. It taught the people to regard their wishes and wants as the supreme criterion of their right to do what they like to do with themselves. It proclaimed the idea of the sovereignty of the people uncontrolled by the past and uncontrolled by the existing state.”

The caste is a nation but the rule of one caste over another may not be admitted to be the same as the rule of one nation over another. But supposing the case is not carried so far but is limited to majority and minority even then the question remains : What right has the majority to rule the minority? The answer is that whatever the majority does it is right. What complain the minorities can haye ?

People who rely upon majority rule forget the fact that majorities are of two sorts : (1) Communal majority and (2) Political majority.

A political majority is changeable in its class composition. A political majority grows. A communal majority is born. The admission to a political majority is open. The door to a communal majority is closed. The politics of a political majority are free to all to make and unmake. The politics of a communal majority are made by its own members born in it.

How can a communal majority run away with the title deeds given to a political majority to rule ? To give such title deeds to a communal majority is to establish a hereditary Government and make the way open to the tyranny of that majority. This tyranny of the communal majority is not an idle dream. It is an experience of many minorities. This experience to Maharashtrian Brahmins being every recent it is unnecessary to dilate upon it. What is the remedy ? No doubt some safeguards against this communal tyranny are essential. The question is : What can they be ? The first safeguard is not to have too large a State. The consequences of too large a State on the minority living within it are not understood by many. The larger the State the smaller the proportion of the minority to the majority.

To give one illustration—If Mahavidarbha remained separate, the proportion of Hindus to Muslims would be four to one. In the United Maharashtra the proportion will be fourteen to one. The same would be the case of the Untouchables. A small stone of a consolidated majority placed on the chest of the minority may be borne. But the weight of a huge mountain it cannot bear. It will crush the minorities. Therefore creation of smaller States is a safeguard to the minorities.

The second safeguard is some provision for representation in the Legislature. The old type of remedy provided in the Constitution were (1) certain number of reserved seats and (2) separate electorates. Both these safeguards have been given up in the new Constitution. The lambs are shorn of the wool. They are feeling the intensity of the cold. Some tempering of the wool is necessary.

Separate electorates or reservation of seats must not be restored to. It would be enough to have plural member constituencies (of two or three) with cumulative voting in place of the system of single-member constituency embodied in the present Constitution. This will allay the fears which the minorities have about Linguistic States.



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