Smelling an opportunity in the rift between BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi and senior leader Murali Manohar Joshi, the Congress has swiftly moved in to play the Brahmin-as-victim card to wean away UP's substantial upper-castes away from BJP.
On Tuesday morning, Congress party supporters - associated indirectly with its social media team - began the a twitter hashtag, 'Brahmin-mukt Bhajapa'. This was takeoff on Modi's appeal for a 'Congress-mukt Bharat'. Instances where Brahmins were alleged to have been insulted by Modi in the party were played up. These included the mysterious killing of Gujarat leader Haren Pandya, the move to deny Joshi a ticket from Varanasi, and even the demand to withdraw the Bharat Ratna from Amartya Sen.
This got official sanction when party spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi, tweeted, "BJP member? A Brahmin from Bihar/UP? Ticket hopeful? Bhool Jao, forget it'. When attacked for playing the caste card, Chaturvedi responded, "Fine for you to exploit Hindu identity and OBC identity for votes but when someone else raises questions of Brahmin identity, you find it offensive. Ha."
A Congress source familiar the campaign in east UP explained the trigger for the idea to HT. "While campaigning in the region between Mirzapur and Allahabad, we encountered many people who called BJP an OBC-Thakur party, with Modi representing the former and Rajnath the latter. We feel segments of Brahmins, who voted traditionally for Congress, are angry and can be brought back."
The Congress move has drawn criticism from BJP supporters on the social media, who allege this is a 'casteist ploy' to prevent an OBC from becoming PM. And while it has touched a chord, the move's efficacy is doubtful.
Pandit Girija Shankar Mishra, president of the Kanya Kubj Brahman Samajwadi, told HT on the phone from Allahabad, "Brahmins do feel that we don't have as much say in BJP as we did during Atal B Vajpayee's time, especially after Modi played his OBC card." But he added that the community's orientation remained towards BJP.