To build up a countervailing vote bank based on electoral arithmetic, the Congress is banking heavily on the Muslim-Kurmi (MK) caste combination in UP assembly elections.
The party has devised a strategy to target the combination to counter Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s tried and tested Muslim-Yadav (MY) formula.
In the process, the Congress also seeks to dent Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati’s Muslim-Dalit votebank.
According to the data collected by the party, of the 403 assembly constituencies, 305 seats have more than 20,000 Muslim voters. A similar number of Kurmi voters exist in 95 constituencies.
While the Muslims, who constitute 18% of the population in UP, are the deciding factor in around 110 seats, the Kurmis, with around 3.5%, is the largest OBC community after the Yadavs and have a strong influence in about 25 constituencies.
In 15 districts the Muslims constitute at least 25% of the population. Those have been classified as minority-concentration districts by the minority affairs ministry.
While the Muslims are spread across the state, the community has a substantial presence in the western part.
The Kurmi population too is spread across the state from Barabanki, Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich in the central region, to Shravasti and Gonda in the eastern belt, and Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur.
In Bundelkhand, districts such as Banda and Jalaun have a substantial Kurmi
presence. The Congress had done well in the region in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, winning 6-7 seats.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had also started his mass contact programme from this region with the hope of a repeat performance in the assembly elections. Bara Banki is the hometown of prominent Kurmi leader and Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma while former UP chief secretary and one-time Mayawati confidant PL Punia was elected to the Lok Sabha from this constituency in the 2009 general elections.
If this combination works, Congress managers are hopeful the party will be a dominant player in 70-80 seats.