A votebank (also spelled vote-bank or vote bank) is a loyal bloc of voters from a single community, who consistently back a certain candidate or political formation in democratic elections. Such behaviour is often the result of an expectation of real or imagined benefits from the political formations, often at the cost of other communities.
Votebank politics is the practice of creating and maintaining votebanks through divisive policies. As this brand of politics encourages voters to vote on the basis of narrow communal considerations, often against their better judgement, it is considered inimical to democracy.
The term was coined in India, where the practice of votebank politics is rampant. Since then, it has gained currency in other Asian countries with a significant English-speaking population.
The term vote-bank was first used by noted Indian sociologist, M. N. Srinivas (who also coined the terms Sanskritisation and dominant caste), in his 1955 paper entitled The Social System of a Mysore Village. He used it in the context of political influence exerted by a patron over a client. Later, the expression was used by F. G. Bailey, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, San Diego, in his 1959 book Politics and Social Change, to refer to the electoral influence of the caste leader. This is the usage that has since become popular.
Votebank politics by country
In India, votebanks tend to be along the lines of religion, caste or language. The Bharatiya Janata Party, Akali Dal and the Indian Union Muslim League are primarily rely on Hindu, Sikh and Muslim votebanks, respectively. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Dalit Panthers of India are examples of parties that rely on caste votebanks. The Telugu Desam Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam concentrate on linguistic votebanks. There are also parties that cater to the aspirations of ethnic votebanks, such as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and provincialist votebanks, such as Asom Gana Parishad and Biju Janata Dal. Communist parties, such as the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), cater to ideological votebanks in Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal.
- Client politics
- Indian politics
- Identity politics
- Electoral system
- Political campaigning
- Social disintegration
- Blocks of Five
- Red states and blue states
- Ralph Grillo; Rodney Needham (February 2000). "Obituary: M. N. Srinivas". Anthropology Today (PDFdoi:10.1111/1467-8322.00007. ISSN 0268-540X. JSTOR 0268540x.) 16 (1): 22. [dead link]
- Srinivas, M. N.; et al. (1955). "The Social System of a Mysore Village". In McKim Marriot. Village India: studies in the little community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 1–35.
- Bailey, F. G. (1959). Politics and Social Change. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Mujtaba, Syed Ali (2004-05). "‘Monolith India’ and the vote bank". Himal Southasian (The Southasia Trust). Archived from the original on 2004-09-28. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
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