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Congress BJP Hardik Patel Gujarat Image Credit: FRONTLINE
Congress BJP Hardik Patel Gujarat Image Credit: FRONTLINE

The Caste Factor

The Assembly election results have brought navsarjan (rejuvenation) to the Congress party in Gujarat and beyond, the credit for it going mainly to its strategy of building electoral alliances with caste groups.

Akshay Deshmane

Among the few indisputable consequences of the just-concluded Assembly election in Gujarat is the forceful return of a peculiar form of identity politics. While religious identity, in the form of aggressive Hindutva, was the dominant tool for mobilising voters during the past two decades, this election campaign reintroduced an old form of identity politics first pushed by the Congress during the Assembly elections in 1980. The 2017 election results, declared on December 18, show that this form of identity politics still has wide acceptance in the State even if Hindutva continues to dominate.

“KHAM-style politics has been revived in this election.” This was the common refrain in a section of longtime Gujarat-based election watchers and researchers as they spoke to Frontline, even if they differed in detail, on the day the results came out. The acronym KHAM denotes an electoral alliance of the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim communities, first framed by the Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki before the 1980 Assembly election with great success. Explaining how KHAM reflects in the 2017 Assembly election results, Mahashweta Jani, a researcher with long experience of working on pre- and post-election surveys for the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said: “The Congress has done well among Dalit, OBC [Other Backward Classes] and tribal voters.” She said that the increase in the Congress’ tall


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