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Khurja, UP: Where castes, sub-castes matter
April 12, 2007 11:27 IST
Home to more than 500 ceramic factories, this small town lacks the infrastructure required for good industry.
Nonetheless, industry has flourished in this town that supplies a large quantity of pottery to all parts of the country and has seen a huge increase in population in recent years, mainly because of the boom in the ceramic industry in the 1970s and 1980s.
Routine power cuts lasting up to half-a-day and shortage of water have rarely been issues that could strike a chord with voters in this Assembly constituency located in an industrial region where not just castes, but sub-castes and gotras (lineage) define politics.
Rajputs form the major constituent of Khurja Assembly seat and have the highest population in and around the town.
But they largely vote along gotra lines.
In the last elections in Khurja, the Raghavs, a predominant group among Rajputs, proved to be the main factor behind the Bharatiya Janata Party's ouster and the Bahujan Samaj Party's victory as they supported an independent candidate belonging to their own lineage.
With her traditional support base seemingly intact among Dalits, BSP chief Mayawati has retained incumbent Anil Kumar Sharma, a Brahmin, as her candidate to woo upper castes.
This was done apparently to make up for any loss for consolidation of Rajput votes as the BJP has fielded a Raghav nominee, Ved Pal Singh, this time.
The Congress too has named a Brahmin, Rakesh Kumar, as its candidate in a bid to woo upper castes and dent the BJP's vote-block.
Khurja, also a key centre of India's meat industry, is a classic example of economic disparity. One the one hand, all ceramic factories and most homes in the town have private generators and water pumps.
But on the other, a huge number of people in villages just a few kilometers away in the same constituency, remain in poverty, without access to clean drinking water or basic education.
"But voting pattern is not influenced much by economic issues in this place. Gotras and sub-castes, let alone castes, decide who is capable of representing the constituency in the Assembly," said Bijen Singh, a ceramic supplier.
A ceramic factory-owner complained caste-dominated politics in Khurja provides little scope for reaching out to markets like the US and Europe, which he said have a huge demand for pottery.