New Delhi: 90 percent of people vote on caste lines instead of assessing a candidate's merit, Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju on Monday said, claiming it allows people with criminal background to get elected.

"When they go to vote, 90 percent of the people don't see the merit of the candidate but take a decision only on the basis of caste. And not only the illiterate, I am talking of the educated," he said.

Known to raise hackles with his often controversial remarks, the former Supreme Court Judge said it was not just the illiterate but the educated people who vote on caste lines and did not spare even his legal fraternity.

Recalling of his own experience in the high court, Katju said that even lawyers would vote on caste lines.

"I don't blame the uneducated, but am talking of the educated people. Professors of physics department, head of department....would vote as per caste. How backward your country is," he said.

The PCI chairperson said that there were so many people of criminal background who get elected because people voted for them if they belonged to the same caste rather than going by merit.

Katju was speaking here at a function by organisation Vote for India, to mark the launching of national voter awareness week.

Katju said Democracy is a feature of industrial society and not a feature of feudal agricultural society.

"And till 1947 when India became independent, India was largely feudal," he said and added that the British policy had been to largely keep India unindustrialised.

He said that when the country got independence, the far sighted founding fathers adopted a Constitution based on a western model.

"The aim of the Constitution makers was to pull up society from its backwardness, from its feudalism and lift it up into the modern industrial age," he said.

He said that though this idea succeeded with industry coming up and the country progressing but midaway the feudal elements took over with the result that people voted on caste lines.

Deputy speaker of Lok Sabha Kariya Munda, who was also present,  expressed unhappiness that a high percentage of the population including the educated people did not go out to vote.

"Many people think that what is the use of going to vote. If everyone thought like that, there would be no voting," he said.

He claimed that before 1990s people voted on the basis of party while later casteism and regionalism crept in.

"We see in parliament and have seen in assemblies that people start rolling up their sleeves and it seems they have entered a wrestling ring. This is not a good sign for democracy. Here a conclusion is arrived through discussion not through muscle power," Munda said.

"You may have seen that the minister is reading something and it is snatched and torn. Recently it happened in Parliament that the minister was reading a Bill when it was snatched.

"It is seen worldover since it is telecast on TV and the impression among people is that after over 60 years of Independence, snatching happens not just in villages but also in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas," Munda said.

He said that one of the reasons for this situation could be that the youth is not alert.

Munda said that it is important that everyone votes for the sake of the country and on the basis of merit of the candidates.


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