Caste politics has once again taken centrestage ahead of the state assembly elections. And with every social group hankering for a political space in the state, the race for their appeasement is well and truly on.
Having held the dalit/OBC rally last month, the Bahujan Samaj Party on last Sunday played the Muslim, Thakur and Vaishya card to retain its support base among these communities.
While Muslims (17% of the population) are dominant players in the state’s electoral arena, Thakurs (5%) and Vaishyas (3%) too are important communities and have played key roles during polls over the years.
That is why all the political players have tried to keep the Thakurs and Vaishyas in good humour, but have fallen short of giving them their due.
This time, the Muslims are in special focus and moves are afoot to appease the community. While chief minister Mayawati has demanded a comprehensive national policy for the welfare of the community, the Congress plans to provide job reservation to them within the existing 27% quota for the other backward classes (OBCs). As for the Vaishya community, it is a bit disappointed over what it sees as its political neglect.
There is a general grievance that all the parties have failed to give it proper political space over the years. The community’s representation in the assembly has come down from 80 MLAs in 1951 to 17 in the present House.
“Over the years, political parties have exploited the community,” Maharaja Agrasen Sabha secretary Bharat Bhushan Gupta said. The community had given “money and votes” to all the parties, but none of them gave adequate political space to it, Gupta said. He, however, appeared to have a soft corner for Mulayam Singh Yadav who had announced a holiday on Maharaja Agrasen Jayati and provided some other sops during the last regime.
Another community leader Neeraj Bora lamented the community’s political visibility had gone down because of a declining voting percentage.
“The community has always been dubbed BJP supporters but that party too has not done much for it,” he said, adding that as the Vaishya community members had been silent voters they suffered a lot while other vocal segments succeeded in being heard.
Thakurs too are sulking. “We play a prominent role in making or marring the chances of political parties in the rural areas, but we have been losers during the last two decades in UP,” said Kshatriya Mahasabha national president Kunwar Harwansh Singh.
Lack of unity had adversely affected the community, he said. After having been “emotionally exploited by the BJP”, the community was cautious this time, Singh said.