A detailed analysis of the ruling party’s hierarchy by ThePrint reveals it is still dominated by the upper castes and has little room for minority communities.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has been working hard to expand its footprint across the country, using social engineering to woo the so-called lower castes and capture voters who traditionally shunned the party.
But when it comes to its own organisational structure, the 38-year-old party continues to remain predominantly upper-caste, with a far less proportion of backward castes and negligible representation of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other minority communities.
An in-depth analysis of the caste profile of the BJP’s organisational structure by ThePrint has found that over three-fourths of the party’s office bearers at the national level are upper caste and over 60 per cent of its national executive is drawn from the general category.
General category members also account for 65 per cent of its state unit presidents.
Even in its lower rungs, most leadership roles are with the upper castes — 65 per cent of the BJP’s district presidents across the country are from the general category.
Over the last few years, the BJP’s Dalit outreach has stood out as it tries to shed the perception that it is a Brahmin-Baniya party. That, however, isn’t reflected in the party’s hierarchy either.
Dalits, along with Muslims and tribals, are among the least represented in the party. Only two are national office bearers while none of the state unit presidents is from the community.
ThePrint studied the list of the BJP’s 50 national office-bearers, 97 national executive members, 36 presidents of 29 states and seven Union Territories, as well as 752 of the party’s district presidents across 24 states.
The northeastern states, barring Assam and Tripura, are primarily tribal-dominated, and the BJP hierarchy reflects this social composition. Hence, they’ve been left out of this analysis.
Caste categorisation has been done as per the status of a particular caste in that respective state.
Muslims, Buddhists and Christians have been included as minorities.
Sikhs have not been classified as minorities as most of the community’s representatives in the BJP are in its Punjab unit, where they are not a minority. Outside Punjab, there is one Sikh each in the party’s national office-bearers and national executive lists, as well as one each at the district level in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The lists of national office-bearers and national executive members were obtained from the BJP website.
The national office-bearers include the president, national vice-presidents, national general secretaries, joint general secretaries, national secretaries, national spokespersons and morcha heads. The national executive comprises of BJP leaders from the states.
Those of district presidents were obtained from the party’s state websites wherever available, while some were procured from the respective state units.
The number of district BJP presidents is more than the number of districts in some states as in the case of big districts, the party has appointed more than one head.
Caste determination has been as accurate as possible, but given the complexity of the exercise of caste identification, there could be room for some minor corrections.
The Big Picture: BJP remains an upper caste party
Of the BJP’s 50 national office-bearers, 17 are Brahmins, 21 are from other forward castes, four are OBCs, three belong to the scheduled castes, two are scheduled tribes, two are from the Muslim community, and one is Sikh.
Such is the poor representation of minorities in the BJP’s highest decision-making body, that of the three Dalits, one is the head of the party’s SC morcha, while of the two Muslims, one is the chief of the minority morcha.
It is even worse in the case of tribal representatives, as one is the head of the party’s ST morcha, while the other, Jyoti Dhruve from Madhya Pradesh, is embroiled in a controversy over her status. The state government has scrapped her ST certificate and the matter is in court.
In effect, 76 per cent of the party’s national office-bearers are upper castes, while only 8 per cent are OBCs and 6 per cent are SC.
It is equally lopsided in the party’s national executive. Of the 97 members here, 29 are Brahmins, 37 are from other upper castes, 18 are either OBCs or BCs, seven belong to the Scheduled Castes, three are from minority communities, one is a Sikh and one is an ST.
One seat is vacant after Chandan Mitra quit the party last month.
Effectively, 69 per cent are from forward castes and only around 27 per cent are from the other communities.
Among BJP presidents, of the 36 state units and those of the union territories, none is Dalit. Seven are Brahmins, 17 belong to other forward castes, six are STs, five are OBCs and one is Muslim. Over 66 per cent are, thus, from the upper castes.
Even at the district level, 65 per cent of the party’s presidents are upper castes, with more than a fourth of them being Brahmin. While the BJP is supposed to have 752 district presidents, data is available for 746 as three positions are vacant, and the castes of three district presidents remain unclear.
Of these, 487 are upper castes, 25 per cent belong to the OBC, BC, MBC categories, while less than 4 per cent are SCs. Not even 2 per cent are from the minority communities.
None of this is commensurate with each community’s share in the population. As per the 2011 census, Dalits comprise 16.6 per cent of the country’s population while scheduled tribes are 8.6 per cent of the population. Muslims constitute around 14 per cent of the population.
While there are no exact figures for other castes, with data for the caste census yet to be released, a survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2007 pegged the OBC population at around 41 per cent.
In states, the same story in UP and Bihar
In Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP came to power with a thumping majority in 2017 by building a rainbow caste coalition, the party structure is overwhelmingly upper caste with around 72 per cent of the district presidents belonging to the general category. Of these, around 30 per cent are Brahmins, 15 per cent are Baniyas and 26 per cent are other forward castes.
Dalits are 21 per cent of the population but have only two district presidents. OBCs comprise 26 per cent of the district presidents.
While UP has 71 districts, the party has split some of them for administrative reasons and thus, it has 92 district presidents in the state.
The other state where the BJP hopes to make gains in 2019 is Bihar, where victory in the 2015 assembly elections eluded it. Of the total 40 district presidents, six are Brahmins, 16 belong to other upper castes, 11 are OBCs, 6 are EBCs and one is SC. There are no Dalit presidents.
In effect, 55 per cent are upper castes, while 11 per cent are from the OBC/EBC categories.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year, the BJP has to first contend with semi-finals in three key states: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It is in power in all of them.
In Madhya Pradesh, Brahmins, Baniyas and other upper castes head 70 per cent of the districts, while OBCs are in 25 per cent of the posts and STs in 4 per cent. Of the total 55 district presidents, 13 are Baniyas and 6 are Brahmins. There is one Sikh.
In Rajasthan, where the party suffered embarrassing defeats in two Lok Sabha bypolls earlier this year, 71 per cent of the district presidents are upper castes (including Brahmins, Baniyas, Jains, Rajputs, Kayasthas), 23 per cent are OBCs and two are from the scheduled castes.
In the third poll-bound state of Chhattisgarh, the party has a significant percentage of OBCs as district presidents — around 45 per cent; 41 per cent are upper castes (which includes 3 per cent Brahmins, 17 per cent Baniyas and 21 per cent of other upper castes) and around 7 per cent each are SC and ST.
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, there are three Brahmins and 21 from other upper castes among the 41 district presidents. Six are tribals, eight are OBCs and three are SCs.
The powerful Patels, who are now campaigning for reservation, make up 31 per cent of the district presidents.
In neighbouring Maharashtra, of the 40 district presidents, the influential Maratha community (15), which is demanding reservations, has the maximum representation. Of the rest, 11 are Brahmins, six are from other forward castes, four are OBCs, three STs, one Muslim and none from the scheduled castes.
In the east, of the 37 district presidents in West Bengal, only two are SCs, and five OBCs. The rest belong to the general category. In Assam, which has a BJP government, around 45 per cent of its district presidents are either Brahmins or belong to other forward castes. Around 32 per cent are OBCs or MBCs, 21 per cent are STs, and one Muslim.
The south and north
Among the southern states, of the 36 district presidents in Karnataka, 28 belong to the general category. Of the 36, 19 are Lingayats, seven Vokkaligas, two others (general), five OBCs and three SCs.
In Tamil Nadu, where the BJP is looking to forge an alliance with the AIADMK, an overwhelming majority — 71 per cent — belong to backward castes, while 26 per cent are forward castes. There are no SCs.
In the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, of the 23 district presidents, 43 per cent, primarily in Jammu, are from the upper castes and 48 per cent, all in the Valley, are Muslim.
‘The PM is an OBC’
When ThePrint reached BJP leaders for comment, they refused to speak on record over the issue. Sources, however, said the party tries to take into account local caste dynamics while appointing district presidents.
“The balancing act is often done to get in representations from the different dominant caste groups while forming district units in terms of all the members picked (besides the president), as also while selecting city and village unit heads,” said the source.
“The PM is an OBC. This shows we are a party of and for the backward castes. Change will happen only gradually and will reflect in the party hierarchy accordingly. It cannot happen overnight,” said another senior leader who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Special contributors: Ratnadeep Choudhary and Rupanwita Bhattacharjee
With inputs from Manasi Phadke, Chitleen Sethi, Rohini Swamy, Gaurav Kumar and Sakshi Arora
Editor’s Note: ThePrint has attempted to be as accurate with castes as possible but it welcomes corrections, if any, from readers.