Uttar Pradesh, one of the most crucial states in India when it comes to deciding who’ll rule Delhi, is churning as usual before the elections. But the all-too-familiar scene looks different this time.
The Brahmins — considered politically regressive since the rise of the scheduled caste and Yadav politicians and uncertain about their own loyalty — are being wooed this time as much as the Muslims.
The reason: No political outfit enjoys absolute control over the Brahmin — and also the Muslim — vote bank. Analysts say ever since the quiet demise of the Congress in UP and the Ayodhya temple issue of the 1990s, the Brahmins and Muslims — traditional Congress voters — have been tactically shifting their positions.
The Brahmins experimented with various options to regain their primacy, while the Muslims voted with the sole intention of keeping the BJP out of power. And Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party made a killing at the ballot box.
But loyalty is never taken for granted by anybody, especially politicians. Eyes on the 2014 polls, both the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have worked out a strategy to catch the Brahmin vote bank and have already hit the road.
Interestingly, the strategy of tapping the Muslims seems to be not having a strategy at all — just wait for the polarising power of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who will lead the BJP charge this time.
The SP, however, nailed the Centre on its failure to implement the Sachar committee and Ranganath commission reports on minorities. During the recent visit of the union minorities minister K Rehman Khan, the UP CM demanded fast action on quota for minorities.
In its jostle for the upper caste vote, the SP is constantly reminding people about the excesses during the BSP regime under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and how Mulayam Singh had blocked the BSP’s plan to get the quota in promotions passed in Parliament.
The SP, however, knows it will have to do more to shore up the numbers. For wooing the backward castes, the Akhilesh government recently sent a list of 17 castes, including the Nishad, Mallah, Kumhar, Bind, Kewat and Kashyap, to the Centre for getting them included in the SC category.
But the Brahmins are the top-of-the-mind target group. At a recent Brahmin sammelan, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav announced, “Samaj jidhar jayega sarkar uski banegi (Society will ultimately decide who forms the government).” Read: Please feel important. You are the key to power.
Mayawati has also changed tack, softening her stand on quota in promotions and wooing the Brahmins along with her own vote bank. The BSP’s Brahmin face, SC Mishra, is touring 38 Lok Sabha constituencies from where Dalit or Brahmin candidates have been fielded for the 2014 polls.
The Congress and the BJP, however, are still not done with their deliberations. Tariq Khan, chairman of planning, research and analysis wing of the UP Congress, said, “There is a near consensus in the party that we should not fall into the caste trap, as it would not be good for the state.”
Although the BJP has assigned Amit Shah, a Modi confidant and an accused in the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, to take charge of UP, it has nothing to offer except good governance — a concept that the voter may find difficult to grasp.
BSP leader Brajesh Pathak sums up the scenario: “The bank finances loan only when you put up 25% of the project cost. In elections also, one needs a vote base to get more votes. Neither the Congress nor the BJP has that.”