Parties scramble for support of Brahmins ahead of 2022 polls in Uttar Pradesh
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati’s announcement of a series of Brahmin meets from July 23 has triggered a scramble for seeking the support of the community ahead of the 2022 polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Opposition parties have highlighted alleged atrocities on Brahmins, who are believed to account for around 11% of the state’s population, in the run-up to the elections. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to counter this by having leaders from the community talk about initiatives undertaken for it.
The BSP, which formed the government on its own in the state in 2007 with support from Brahmins, has rushed Nakul Dubey to Ayodhya to oversee arrangements for the party’s first Brahmin meet on Friday.
“Ram...belongs to all,” said Dubey when asked about the choice of Ayodhya, where the Ram Temple is being built in place of the demolished Babri Mosque, for the first Brahmin meet.
Congress leader Aradhana Mishra said her party is the only one to have given Brahmin chief ministers to Uttar Pradesh. She wondered if any political party would declare a Brahmin as the chief ministerial candidate.
Bhagwan Parshuram Trust, an organisation backed by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Abhishek Mishra, has begun the construction of Parshuram temples in each district of Uttar Pradesh. Parshuram, a Brahmin saint, is believed to have been an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath last year criticised the Opposition over its ploy to project Parshuram as a Brahmin, saying both “Ram and Parshuram were incarnations of Lord Vishnu.”
Abhishek Mishra said some of the temples have already come up, where priests are conducting rituals. “Once temples are constructed in all the districts, we plan to build 108 feet statue of Lord Parshuram.” He said in 1993, the SP government declared a holiday on Parshuram’s birthday.
BJP leader Sunil Bharala too has announced Brahmin meets under the aegis of his the Rashtriya Parshuram Parishad.
Adityanath, a Kshatriya, will lead the BJP in the polls. Akhilesh Yadav, an Other Backward Class (OBC) leader, is the SP’s face, and Mayawati, a Dalit, that of the BSP.
Kshatriyas account for about 9% of the population while OBCs are the single largest voting bloc (50%). Dalits and Muslims comprise 20% and 19% of the state’s population.
In the 2017 polls, the Congress initially projected former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, a Brahmin, as the party’s face before it forged an alliance with the SP.
Aradhana Mishra insisted the Congress does not believe in caste politics. “It is not in our DNA, but we would like to know which other political party, apart from the Congress, has given Brahmin chief ministers.”
The late ND Tiwari, a Brahmin, headed the last Congress government in Uttar Pradesh in 1989.
Mayawati last year announced the BSP will set up hospitals in the name of Lord Parshuram if the party is voted to power.
Aslam Raini, who was among the seven BSP lawmakers to be suspended for the party last year, questioned Mayawati’s strategy. “There was a time when Brahmin leaders like Brajesh Pathak were with Mayawati. Now, she does not have any support of Brahmins who are backing the SP now,” said Raini.
Pathak, who is among nine Brahmin ministers in the state government, was the first convenor of BSP’s Brahmin Sabha set up in 2004.
In 2017, when BJP won 312 seats in a 403-member House, 58 Brahmin lawmakers won on the party’s tickets. The number is more than the strength of SP (47), BSP (19), and Congress (seven) in the assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted Ajay Kumar Mishra, a Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh, in his council of ministers this month. Adityanath too is expected to induct Brahmin Jitin Prasada in his ministry.
Prasada in 2020 floated Brahmin Chetna Parishad to highlight alleged atrocities on Brahmins under Adityanath’s rule. He has since defected to the BJP from Congress.
Umesh Dwivedi, a BJP lawmaker, said they plan to introduce a host of measures for Brahmins. “...fund education of children from poor Brahmin families, help community members fight cases registered against them,” he said. Dwivedi’s Akhil Bhartiya Brahmothan Mahasabha will back the initiatives.
BJP Member of Parliament Harish Dwivedi called Mayawati attempts to reach out to the Brahmins a futile effort. “Brahmins are with the BJP and 2022 (elections) would prove that again.”
Political observer Irshad Ilmi said among upper castes, Brahmins appear to be a top priority for all parties. “I would not be surprised if the community gets sizeable tickets.”