The Jat quota on the eve of the general elections didn’t help the Congress party in key states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh. Nor did the famed Hindu-Muslim divide that was supposed to see the Muslim vote consolidate against the BJP. Part of the reason was the presence of first-time voters who, more than anything else, wanted jobs and saw Narendra Modi as someone who could deliver on this. Whether it was the youth, or even distinct caste groups, they voted for Modi’s BJP—2 for Modi versus 1 for Rahul Gandhi in the case of the SCs and the STs across the country, according to the CNN-IBN survey done by CSDS-Lokniti. Not surprisingly, the caste warriors all came a cropper. While Lalu Prasad’s RJD got the same number (4) of seats as it got in 2009, Mulayam Singh’s SP got 5 versus 21 in 2009 and Mayawati got 0 versus 21—even Nitish Kumar, who worked more for development than concentrated on caste politics, got all but wiped out with just 2 seats versus 19 in 2009.
With this lesson so recent, it comes as a real surprise that the Congress party should play the same card just before the assembly elections in the state. A 16% reservation has been declared for Marathas—10 of the 17 chief ministers of the state have been Marathas—and another 5% for Muslims. It would be interesting to see how voters view such obvious vote-bank politics.