Sardar Vallabhbhai Javerbhai Patel, the man BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Damodardas Modi has been relentlessly trying to project as the BJP mascot for the 2014 polls, is being described in Uttar Pradesh as a Kurmi leader.
Irrespective of the relevance of the Sardar having been a Kurmi — an agricultural community — the BJP used his caste identity earlier also to prove that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is not the tallest among the Kurmis.
In UP, every player – from cadres to icons — has to have a caste identity and agenda. So, it hardly came as a surprise when BSP leader Mayawati referred to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal as a Bania. No offence meant, just identification mark found.
At her party’s show-of-strength rally on her 58th birthday here on January 15, Mayawati demanded that Kejriwal must exclude Dalits from the aam admi. She clearly told her constituency that a Bania would never protect a Dalit as much as she — a Dalit ki beti — could.
Clearly, the players have started formulating their strategies for the Lok Sabha elections. This time, the situation is somewhat special as the UP biggies, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati, are targeting India’s top job.
To make it a clear-cut contest for the Delhi job, Yadav has already let his ambitions be known, while Modi surfaced in the national scene only as the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee.
And after her successful rally, pundits have accepted Mayawati as another serious contender.
Only Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the Congress – which is left with virtually no caste-based vote-bank in UP — has not made his ambitions known, for now. And the party’s focus on women voters may not produce much dividend as women in UP rarely defy their castes.
Now, the BJP is focusing on retrieving its upper caste — especially the Brahmin— support-base, which it captured from the Congress in the 1990s, after the Ram Temple row.
During the 2007 assembly elections, the BSP’s trump card was the Brahmin vote-bank. This time, aware of the upper caste shift towards the BJP, Mayawati has propped up the Dalit-Muslim combination, saying at her rally: “Dalits stood in support of Muslims during the Muzaffarnagar riots. This bonhomie should remain alive.”
The reason: The combo is lethal in the 30-odd seats in western UP.
There are speculations that a section of the Dalits is moving towards the saffron parivar. And the SP doesn’t have much of a presence in western UP in the absence of a sizeable Yadav population.
Both the SP and the BSP are aiming at 40 seats in the state as only that number can carry them to the negotiating table in case of a hung House. While the SP won its highest tally of 35 in 2004, the BSP touched 20 in 2009.
Although the BJP is largely banking on the youth and upper caste votes, it’s not enough to reach even closer to their highest tally of 57 of 1998. It’s aiming at 35 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, instead.
With Modi as the PM candidate and former CM Kalyan Singh back in the party, the BJP is confident of winning a large chunk of the OBC votes, especially the Kurmis. The Patel legacy will come in handy then.