As war over Muslim and OBC votes intensifies in the state, the upper caste, especially the Brahmins, appear to be completely marginalised by political parties.
Strangely, the community that was pampered by all the political parties barely five years ago, doesn’t seem to mind their neglect. Instead they are savouring every moment with the slogan of ‘change’ on their lips. A cross section of Brahmins say the community has already made up its mind.
A veteran Om Prakash Sharma, leader of the teachers group in the UP Legislative Council is known for reading the voters pulse right. He explains, “The Brahmins have suffered so much in the BSP regime that they have automatically gone back to their home- a resurgent Congress after its electoral alliance with RLD. Brahmins don’t need any promise. They are openly talking about ‘badlav’ (change).
According to him Congress doesn’t have to woo Brahmins. Referring to a teachers’ convention in Gorakhpur in Jan last he said the consensus was for a ‘change.’ Their slogan at the convention attended by 5000 teachers from across the state was , ‘Vaade pure jo na kar sake, woh sarkar nikammi hai, aur jo sarkar nikammi hi, woh hamein badalni hai.’ (We have to change the government that can’t meet its promises) The convention was attended by about 5000 teachers from across UP.
Sharma said Rajputs have traditionally stayed with power. In 2007 they had split between SP and BJP under the influence of Amar Singh and Rajnath Singh.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Prof Yogeshwar Tewari, a teacher activist in Allahabad. “Brahmins climb down from elephant is for sure. They feel Congress is their traditional home and thus they are moving back,” he said.
According to him the Brahmins do feel marginalized but they also understand the constraints of Congress which cannot ostensibly do upper caste politics as it would alienate the other castes. Tewari claims that Brahmins were in touch with political parties with their demand to share power, something which Mayawati promised and never delivered.
Experts feel that merely making more Brahmin ministers or giving more tickets to Brahmin candidates is not ‘co-sharing power’ till the community plays a role in decision making and this is what Brahmins were angling for.
Young Ram Siahate Awasthi had a similar opinion in Brahmin dominated Mehsi assembly constituency in Bahraich.
“Dalits have been very aggressive past five years. They have lodged false complaints against the upper caste.” Awathi said while quoting his own case when he had hit a Dalit worker because he was not repaying his money. ‘Eventually that one slap cost me Rs 15,000’, he said waiting to avenge that.
It’s hard to believe that barely five years back there was a virtual scramble for Brahmin votes with parties making tall promises.
Brahmins after deserting Congress in early 1990s had stuck to BJP till 2007. They switched loyalties to BSP after Mayawati’s trusted lieutenant SC Mishra had taken an extensive tour of the state, addressing 25 rallies culminating in a maha Brahmin sammelan in the state capital. He had then claimed that 14 % upper-caste play a crucial role in 125 assembly seats. Mishra is back in the field only to be hooted out.
Their brand of social engineering had its impact. The Congress in its manifesto for 2007 polls had promised quota for upper caste poor. The manifesto had then observed that because of certain social–political upheavals in the state, the upper caste poor had socially and economically weakened. ‘The Congress, if voted to power, would give 10 percent reservation in jobs for upper caste poor and if needed would amend the constitution’.
Five years down the line Congress completely changed its tune. It’s sub-quota for minorities and most backward castes now.
Call it the impact of Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma or the party’s abject failure in the 2007 elections, Congress has decided to toe the caste politics of its rivals, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.