The Linguistic Number Game
By Zubair Ahmed
In the Parliamentary constituencies on the mainland, barring a few areas, the voters are generally found to be of a homogeneous nature. But not in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands! It is not for nothing that the Islands have earned the sobriquet of mini
Among the regional groups, Bengalis constitute over 25%, of the population that held sway over the electoral results since 1977 when Bengali candidates took centre stage in a big way with the rise of Manoranjan Bhakta. In the general election in 1967 and 1971 both the major contestants; late KR Ganesh and late PKS Prasad were out of the fold where the Indian National Congress had scored over an independent; PKS Prasad.
However, given a choice in 1977, it is safe to assume that the Bengali electors voted tactically giving Manoranjan Bhakta a resounding victory over the ‘invincible’ KR Ganesh. Thereafter, Bhakta dominated the election scenario till 1991 when another Bengali candidate Tapan Kumar Bepari gave him a run for his money. Finally, the only defeat that Manoranjan Bhakta suffered in his distinguished career was at the hand of another Bengali candidate; Bishnu Pada Ray. A Bengali was pitted against another. However, when the picture changed in 2009, when once again, Bishnu became MP defeating a non-Bengali candidate Kuldeep Rai Sharma.
Bengalis alone cannot be accused of favouring candidates of their own class in the hustling. Whenever there was a credible Tamilian candidate, he too garnered a very good support from his people. K Kandaswamy had secured from 13% to 31% of valid votes in 1967, 1980, 1984 and 1989 polls. That it was not enough to see him through is a different matter. Tamilians constitute about 17% of population.
The scenario this time is not very different. It is widely publicised by anti-Bishnu camp inside the party as well as his opponents outside that he tried the linguistic card this time too to get the ticket.
His focus it seems to be on Bengali and Tamil vote, a bonanza indeed, if his wishes come true. However, Tamilians are keeping the cards very close to their chests not revealing their preferences.
Meanwhile, TMC scored the first goal by getting AIADMK as its alliance, a very strange coincidence. But, how much potent AIADMK is a question everybody is asking. And, how much the local Tamils are going to follow their high command based in Tamil Nadu has to be seen. TMC too seems to be on same track with focus on Bengali vote and now AIADMK getting on to the wagon.
DMK on the other hand has reserved their inclination by declaring that they will go neutral. But, it is also rumoured that the sudden shift in the decision of BJP seat towards Bishnu had changed their decision. It might be advantageous for Kuldeep.
Bishnu is banking big time on Tamil and Bengali vote, and seems to be a bit unconcerned about the local vote, which might become a dangerous move for him with more than 50% voters belonging to other regional groups.
The table would show that there are other regional groups with a strong presence in the electorate. However, such groups never asserted their position and resorted to tactical voting. It is proved from the fact that they never projected their candidates in the elections.
A few experiments like Agapit Kujur and Henry; a Santhali (
and a Nicobari tribal had failed miserably in the past. Prakash Minj, another
candidate has already missed the opportunity of consolidating his vote bank by
dilly dallying with Aam Aadmi Party. Leoba Vovo, a reluctant Nicobari candidate
both forced to stand and withdraw from the elections show the disinterest of a
community in political sphere. Ranchi
Hindu, Muslim and Christian form the three major religious groups of population. But the legacy of communal harmony ensures that no passion is aroused nor tolerated in the electoral game.
The contour and character of the voters has undergone a sea change over the years. The old family loyalty towards political parties is breaking down. The ethnic and religious barriers too do not hold the youth from exercising their democratic right to vote.
The impatient and disillusioned younger generation yearns for change; change for the better. They are looking for a generational change in the political arena too.
Will Kuldeep be able to break the jinx of the Bengali factor and become another non-Bengali MP after late KR Ganesh will decide how strong the linguistic dynamics actually work.
No doubt, both are trying to keep Bengali and Tamil voters entertained, but there are other game spoilers too in the arena this time.