Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, demanding reservations for the upper caste poor. This letter comes a day after she had written to the PM, asking for reservations for Muslims.
The developments come in the run-up to polls in UP, in which the BSP government seeks to defend its majority of 2007.
Mayawati's political rivals have also launched a major offensive against her over land acquisition and 'corruption'.Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's recent Bhatta-Parsaul march had sought to employ a farmers' discourse - catering particularly to Jat farmers, who were never Congress voters in the state - as against the caste-based political discourse of SP and BSP.
"The poor among upper castes leading deprived and pitiable lives need to be uplifted and brought into mainstream society," Mayawati's letter to the PM states. She reminded him that she had made the same demand in 2007.
While upper castes taken together constitute about 20% of UP's population, Muslims constitute 18%. Mayawati's core vote base, Dalits, account for 21% of the state's population, of which over half is her own caste of Jatavs - leather workers by profession.
Mayawati's political calculations seem to be the retention of the Dalit vote, and adding chunks from upper castes - she did this in 2007 - and Muslims.
The latter are part of the vote bank of her arch-rival Mulayam Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, who remained politically important in the state for about two decades since the early 1990s on the basis of a Yadav (estimated at 8.7%) and Muslim combine.
This time, the SP will have to face a challenge not just from Mayawati but also the Peace Party of Dr Ayub, which is looking to wean away Muslims.
The SP has hit out hard against BSP. Leader of opposition in Vidhan Parishad Ahmad Hasan said BSP's demand was a political gimmick. Hasan said the BSP government failed to solve socio-economic problems of the community for the last four years. According to Hasan, even in the recruitment of 33,000 police constables, only 650 Muslim youths were taken.
Meanwhile, the BJP seeks to employ an upper caste - with Kalraj Mishra and Rajnath
Singh being Brahmin and Thakur symbols - and non-Yadav OBC symbolized by Uma Bharti, to improve its showing in UP.
Its hard Hindutva stance having long failed, the party is keeping the Ram temple as just a distant promise.