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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Caste rallies rule UP politics

Vikas Pathak , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 11, 2013
First Published: 21:14 IST(11/7/2013) | Last Updated: 00:01 IST(12/7/2013)

With the Allahabad high court striking down all caste-based rallies in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP may find it difficult to hold its caste Bhaichara programmes in future.

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This is likely to impact the way politics is done in India’s most populous state, where caste has been an organising principle in politics for decades now.

Recently, Mayawati had organised Brahmin Bhaichara rallies in 40 districts of the state to woo the 10 % Brahmin population there.

It is perhaps this that led Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav – himself known for a core political base of Yadavs and Muslims – to welcome the judgment: "We welcome this judgement. Samajwadi Party does not organise such rallies. We are not a caste-based party." Asked about the Brahmin rallies organised by his party, he said, "I had gone to one such rally but did not go to the other. I am not in favour of such rallies." However, SP leader Naresh Agrawal added the caveat that this should not harm the oppressed and disadvantaged sections of society.

Ironically, however, the Bhaichara rallies of Mayawati – which may no longer be possible – were an attempt on the part of the BSP to project a more “inclusive” image. To recall, the BSP had risen in the 1990s with an acerbic campaign against “Manuvadi” upper castes like Brahmins and Thakurs, but changed tack a decade later to reach out to these castes.

The 1990s had, in fact, seen the decline of the Congress in the state, with Dalits leaving it for Mayawati, the Muslims shifting to the Samajwadi Party after the Babri mosque demolition and the upper castes changing loyalties to the BJP around Ram Mandir and Mandal.

The barring of caste rallies, therefore, is good news for the Congress, which has no caste base in UP. Reacting to the verdict, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said politics based on caste, religion and regionalism was wrong.

The BJP, too, welcomed the verdict, pleased that the BSP – and more recently the SP – may no longer find it easy to poach on its eroding upper caste base. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: “We don’t do caste rallies anyway. We believe India is one.”  

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