The successive fractured verdicts in UP elections until 2007 were often regretfully interpreted in terms of the state’s fractured society. But now it is an acknowledged fact that UP has only caste leaders in various parties.
In the eighties, when Kanshi Ram had started building his Bahujan Samaj Party, he had started Dalit rallies. Then all the political parties condemned it. Today they are bitten by the same bug. Even the Congress has recovered some lost ground only after it jumped on the caste bandwagon.
The caste complexities in the state can be gauged from the fact that besides upper castes, there are 66 SC groups and 79 OBC groups. Questions in discussion are like this: “Where are the upper castes going? What about the most backward castes like the Kushwahas, Kahars, Kewats, Koeris, Kumhars and Gadarias? Do you think the Kurmis will stay with the Congress (Beni Prasad Verma influence)? What about the non-Yadav/non Kurmi backwards? Which side are the Muslims taking?
Pushpesh Pant of JNU, currently on a tour of east UP, is unhappy that the Congress also is going the same way. “I don’t (condone) Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati for pursing caste politics. But then they have a caste identity. But why should Rahul Gandhi indulge in caste and minority appeasement in his campaign? He could have walked a lonely furrow like his father without worrying about the prospects.”
Pant says the Congress might do better than last time but still remain far behind the SP or the BSP.
The BJP’s social unification plank through Hindutva stood directly in opposition to the Mandal agenda in 1990 (“we will rejoin through culture what they destroy with caste”). But more than 20 years later, caste has won the day.