Ever since the BSP was founded in 1984, founder-president Kanshi Ram had been working on various caste formulas that would pave the way for a series of victories in Uttar Pradesh. Over two decades later, his successor Mayawati meticulously put one – involving a rainbow coalition of Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits – in place to score a particularly overwhelming triumph in 2007.
Brahmins formed an integral part of Mayawati’s strategy, and she gave the community its due soon after coming to power – cabinet positions in proportion to its population.
However, the Brahminical hunger to reclaim their erstwhile political primacy remained. Often, its leaders discussed the Congress days when people from their community used to become chief ministers.
In 2017, they may have the opportunity to see one of their own in the chief minister’s chair. Eyeing the crucial elections are three players – the BJP, the BSP and the Congress – and they all know the Brahmin community holds the key to winning it.
Political expert Gyanendra Sharma believes there is a rush for Brahmin votes because they are not aligned with any political party. “The Congress’ decision to project a Brahmin face has again made the community politically relevant. It will compel the BJP to hunt for a matching candidate,” he says, adding that the ongoing struggle will help the Samajwadi Party (SP) because there will be a division in “anti-votes”.
As of now, most vote banks seem to be allied to one party or another. While the OBC block is divided between the SP and the BJP, the BSP has claimed a large chunk of the Dalit pie. Among upper castes, the Rajput and Vaishya communities stand with the BJP.
In such a scenario, only 12% of the Brahmin votes and 18% of the Muslim votes are up for grabs. And these communities have been known to be politically fickle – tactically shifting their political allegiances in every election.
However, the question that remains is – what would Brahmins have to do to remain politically relevant?
Prof Vishwanath Pandey of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) believes that the community is upset because they have been marginalised over the years. “To make a mark in the upcoming election, they will have to vote en block, like Muslims and Dalits,” he says.
His colleague, Prof Shailendra Tripathi, does not believe that’s possible. “Brahmins are not united like the Dalits and the Backwards,” he claims.
However, Anupam Sharma – a voter from Kaasanj – believes Prime Minister Narendra Modi may succeed in bringing Brahmins together. “The personality of Modi dwarfs all. A majority of the Brahmins prefer the BJP, which will probably declare a Brahmin as its chief ministerial face.”
The All India Brahmin Sabha, an otherwise non-political group, reportedly plans to appeal to community members that they prioritise Brahmin candidates over political parties.