Caste Away

The Aam Aadmi Party’s perpetuation of upper-caste politics

anindito mukherjee / reuters
01 April, 2019

ON 6 DECEMBER 2018, the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, told the residents of the Vikaspuri colony, in west Delhi, that the Election Commission had removed three million names from its electoral rolls. Kejriwal was inaugurating sewer lines, which he said would also cover over thirty other unauthorised colonies in the neighbourhood. Vikaspuri is home to a large number of settlers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, who are often referred to as Purvanchalis.

Kejriwal claimed that along with the names of 1.5 million Purvanchalis, eight hundred thousand Muslims and four hundred thousand Baniyas—who rank third in the Hindu caste hierarchy—had also been removed from the voter list, at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The basis for this allegation, he said, was an “internal analysis” of surnames that his team had conducted.

Over the preceding week, legislators and core committee members of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had held a series of press conferences to highlight the alleged deletions. Like Kejriwal, they did not explain whether identifying voters by their last name was a foolproof method of determining caste, or place of birth. Sheyphali Sharan, a spokesperson for the Election Commission, tweeted that the party’s allegation on the deletion was “factually incorrect.”

Nevertheless, AAP leaders continued to stick to their allegations. “The BJP has made a second Muslim community out of us,” Sushil Kumar Gupta, a Rajya Sabha member from the AAP, who is a Baniya by caste and a businessman by profession, said in a press conference. “They always conspire against Muslims, and hadn’t given tickets to Muslim candidates. They have now put the Baniyas in the same category.”