Gaming the FPTP: Should Dalits in Haryana move to UP?

In recent years, Haryana has seen a steep increase in crimes against Dalits. The rate of increase in crimes against Dalits is about 16% every year compared to the previous year, in the period 2000-2014.

It’s reasonable to imagine a Dalit politician in the place of VK Singh wouldn’t have resorted to his recent choice of words. Even if the hypothetical Dalit politician did, it’d hardly have carried the same weight of implied bigotry as that of a person belonging to an oppressing caste. It’s also true that Dalits in Haryana don’t have representation that’s anywhere close to capturing power; as is the case in much of India.

Haryana sent two Dalit MPs to Lok Sabha and both were elected from reserved constituencies. Its politics at the state level does not have a dominant Dalit party either, unlike in Uttar Pradesh. A lack of electability for Dalits in non-reserved constituencies, as seen in Tamil Nadu, betrays both prejudice on the part of others and the polity not being sufficiently fractured to overcome that prejudice. Uttar Pradesh has about 22% of its population as Dalit; that corresponding figure for Haryana is 19%. The difference however is, in Haryana there is a single caste Hindu group that’s got more people than all Dalit castes put together; namely the Jats[1]. 

In Uttar Pradesh, there is no caste group as dominant as Jats in Haryana. And, Muslims form a much larger group at 18.5% of the population; whereas only 7% of Haryana’s population is Muslim and they are largely concentrated in one district. So the typical political coalition of the Gangetic plains, which usually is Dalits or Muslims with one other caste group, simply does not work well in Haryana. Consider the Dalit population distribution in Haryana by District,

DalitsHar

With the exception of Sirsa and Fatehabad, no other district has a large enough Dalit population for them to be a political force by themselves. And as it’s been established multiple times across multiple states, a coalition involving Dalits is a lot more difficult to build owing to prejudices[2]. Especially when the dominant caste is this numerous and the contest is not four cornered like it is in Uttar Pradesh.

In such a scenario, when one group faces escalating violence perpetrated by dominant groups who also corner much of the political representation, what can Dalits do? Even if every Dalit votes one way, in a two cornered contest their entire voting block will have a probability of impacting an MP’s election ~ 5.6*10^(-174)[3]. If one were to look at merely maximizing this impact probability, one’d tell Dalits in Haryana: just relocate yourself to Uttar Pradesh. That will instantly achieve two things, a high likelihood of Dalit party winning elections and an increase in impact probability of individual Dalits in elections by multiple orders of magnitude.

Is that feasible? Firstly, Haryana is a far more wealthy state compared to Uttar Pradesh. But it’s an agricultural state[4] and Dalits historically haven’t been land owners. So, perhaps the effect of mass migration will be less acute than the socio-economic indices of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh suggest. The more important question is: what will so many people do in Uttar Pradesh, an already poor and struggling state? Maybe this isn’t such a good strategy after all. But is targeted action possible? Even if not everyone, those in districts with particularly low Dalit population – like Panipat, Faridabad and Mewat – can move to the many districts in Uttar Pradesh that have ~25% Dalit population.

The BSP clearly has an incentive to encourage this. No other group in India has so little to lose in terms of possessions and so it’s unlikely to cause migration in the opposite direction. Perhaps if not across the state, Dalits in each state can migrate to other districts within their own state such that they can game FPTP.

 

[1] – Surely, there are multiple sub-castes among Jats; it’s likely the sub-castes don’t all vote the same way. Estimates of Jat population vary between 20-25%, given there’s no caste census.

[2] – Andrew Wyatt’s Party System Change in South India explains this phenomenon.

[3] – Extending the arithmetic here.

[4] – Despite the rapid move to service economy in the districts adjoining Delhi, 70% of Haryana’s population is still engaged in agriculture.