Hindustantimes wants to start sending you push notifications. Click allow to subscribe

Faizabad: Beyond temple politics, caste dynamics at play

May 15, 2024 07:06 AM IST

The 13-km long Ram Path that connects Ayodhya Dham with Ayodhya (formerly Faizabad) has become the city’s lifeline. The pressure on cops for traffic management is so intense that four-wheelers are not allowed in Ayodhya Dham beyond Lata Chowk on weekends, holidays, and days of religious significance.

AYODHYA: The inauguration of the grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22 has catapulted the temple town to the global level. However, the electoral fight here on Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency is not limited to Hindutva and temple politics alone but is also deeply rooted in the complex caste equation.

From a sleepy town, it has transformed into a bustling city where traffic jams on Ram Path near Hanuman Garhi are a common sight. (Sourced)

This high-profile seat is witnessing an interesting contest among BJP’s Thakur candidate Lallu Singh, SP’s (INDIA bloc) Dalit candidate Awadhesh Prasad, and BSP’s Brahmin candidate Sachhidanand Pandey.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

From a sleepy town, it has transformed into a bustling city where traffic jams on Ram Path near Hanuman Garhi are a common sight. A lot has changed here.

The 13-km long Ram Path that connects Ayodhya Dham with Ayodhya (formerly Faizabad) has become the city’s lifeline. The pressure on cops for traffic management is so intense that four-wheelers are not allowed in Ayodhya Dham beyond Lata Chowk on weekends, holidays, and days of religious significance. However, it is not only about saffron politics; caste equations are also in full play here at Faizabad Lok Sabha seat, which goes to the polls on May 20 in the fifth phase.

Such is the BJP’s focus on the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat that Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out a roadshow here on May 5. BJP’s veteran leader Lallu Singh is seeking re-election for the third consecutive time, having won the seat in 2014 and 2019.

In this charged political atmosphere, HT visited Meera Manjhi’s house at Raj Ghat. The Manjhi family that hogged the limelight after PM Modi visited them on December 30, 2023, during his Ayodhya visit.

This visit was meant to send a message to Dalit and OBC constituents that Ayodhya was not only about saffron politics and ‘Kamandal’.

Since PM’s visit, much has changed in this area. Meera’s house now has plastered walls and proper electrification, giving it a new look. She, however, has a complaint that her husband, Suraj Manjhi, is yet to receive the boat promised by the Ayodhya administration after Modi’s visit.

Belonging to the riverine community, Suraj Manjhi is a deft boatman, and his wife Meera sells flowers at Naya ghat.

Former corporator Veer Chand Manjhi, who is Meera’s neighbour, is happy with all the development work in Ayodhya. However, he complains about the inconvenience caused to locals due to the frequent visits of VVIPs, which result in roadblocks and traffic diversions.

“PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Meera Manjhi’s house in Ayodhya was not just symbolic. This visit was planned to send a message to the Scheduled Caste and OBC community about the party’s priorities,” said Prashant Trivedi, associate professor at the Giri Institute of Development Studies in Lucknow.

Dalits comprise 26 per cent of the total population of the Lok Sabha seat, mainly belonging to the Rawat, Chamar, and Kori communities.

Samajwadi Party candidate Awadhesh Prasad is a veteran politician and the party’s Dalit face. Prasad is the SP MLA from the Milkipur assembly constituency of Ayodhya. His political journey began in 1977 when he won his first assembly election from the Sohawal assembly seat of Ayodhya. Since then, he has won assembly polls in 1985, 1989, 1993, 1996, 2002, 2007, and 2012.

Prasad lost the 2017 assembly election to Gorakhnath Baba of the BJP in the Milkipur assembly segment. However, in 2022, he regained the seat by defeating the BJP candidate.

Former local leader of the BJP from the adjoining Ambedkar Nagar district, Sachhidanand Pandey, is now the BSP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Faizabad.

“Brahmins are predominantly supporters of the BJP, while Dalits and Muslims will back the INDIA bloc candidate,” said Prashant Trivedi.

The BJP’s veteran leader Lallu Singh is banking on the consolidation of Hindu votes. Singh’s team, led by Kamla Kant, is spearheading the election campaign from the party’s office on Ram Path near Hanuman Garhi.

Despite riding on the Ram Mandir wave, Singh is knocking on every door to retain the seat he first won in 2014 and retained in the 2019 general election.

“Lallu Singh has a good local connect and is easily approachable for all. He makes it a point to attend every function in his constituency,” said Prashant Trivedi.

CASTE COMBINATION : Dalit – 26% ( Rawat, Chamar, Kori), Muslims- 14%, Kurmi-12%, Yadav- 12%, Brahmin- 12% , Rajput- 6%, Vaish – 4%, Kewat/Mallah/Nishad- 5%, Other OBC- 12%

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
OPEN APP