The top decision-making bodies of India’s national political parties are largely upper caste Hindu male domains, an analysis by The Hindu shows. While the Bahujan Samaj Party is the most diverse in caste terms, the Congress is the most diverse in religious terms.
Last week when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) elected its new Polit Bureau, the top decision-making body in the party, there were no dalits in the list, yet again.
After compiling a list of the members of the top decision-making bodies of the other five national political parties through official sources and their profiles through unofficial sources, The Hindu found that a similar lack of diversity exists in most of the parties. A notable exception in caste diversity is the Bahujan Samaj Party, where the majority of the members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) belong to Scheduled Castes (SCs), but few details of these members, including in some cases their names, could be confirmed from the party.All six parties do poorly on female representation but the Congress’ Central Working Committee (CWC) does comparatively better. The party’s CWC also does best on religious diversity – a third of its members are minorities – while the BJP’s Parliamentary Board is 100 per cent Hindu.
Among Hindus, who dominate all six parties, the BSP’s CEC has the most SC representatives, while both the CPM’s Polit Bureau and the Nationalist Congress Party’s National Working Committee have none.
The NCP is in fact the most upper caste party, followed by CPI(M), in this metric.
Representatives of the parties all say that diversity is addressed through other wings of the party, but admit they have a long way to go. “Since Rahul Gandhi became vice-president of the party, he has tasked us with identifying and nurturing dalit leadership at all levels. The party is acutely aware that it lacks dalit leadership, and that no leader of the stature of Babu Jagjivan Ram has emerged in the last two decades. A sincere attempt is being made but we have a long way to go,” K Raju, who heads the party’s SC Department, said.
At its last meeting this January, the CWC approved a constitutional amendment to raise representation for backward groups from the current 20 per cent to 50 per cent, a proposal which will now go to the AICC, Mr. Raju said.
Dushyant Kumar Gautam, who heads the BJP’s SC Morcha, said: “Currently the representation is according to the party’s constitution. We are satisfied with this, but of course, every group wishes that they had more representation.”
D. Raja is only the second dalit ever in the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) National Executive, a position he stresses is not account of him being a dalit but because “no one could challenge my understanding, my abilities and my ideological commitment”, he said.
As far back as 1993, the party recognised the need to improve the age, gender and social composition of the party, Mr. Raja said. “Yes there hasn’t yet been enough improvement, but we have brought awareness. It is important to train the cadre from backward groups and enable them to occupy leadership positions,” he said.
The following corrections were made on April 27, 2015:
1. The graphic accompanying the story said 8% of members of the top decision-making body of the BJP were OBC. It should have been 17%. As a result, the party had 75% upper caste members in its top decision-making body, and not 83%.
2. The earlier text said “the NCP is the most upper caste party followed by the BJP”. It should have been “the NCP is the most upper caste party, followed by the CPI(M)”.
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