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In UP, SP-BSP hopes to build on changing caste equations after BJP’s resurgence

The BJP strategy was to try to win the neglected castes and thus, it’s back to quota within quota as the Samajwadi Party and BSP come closer to stop the saffron march.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2018 17:46 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Samajwadi Party,BSP,UP elections
A poster is seen with BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, celebrating their win in Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypoll elections, outside SP office in Lucknow.(PTI File Photo)

A general curiosity prevailed the day seers purified the chief minister’s bungalow in Lucknow with mantras and Ganga jal for its new incumbent Mahant Yogi Adityanath.

But in the countryside, a section of Dalits were enraged by this first-of-its-kind “grih pravesh” ceremony at the official home of a chief minister, vacated by Akhilesh Yadav, a backward. They raised the issue on social media and at meetings, empathising with “pichhda Akhilesh”.

Soon, they started feeling discriminated and deprived in the new dispensation. Their share in power lessened. “We would have taken to the streets had the house been vacated by Behenji (Mayawati). The Yadavs did not protest but the issue went viral on social media. It reduced the anger against Akhilesh Yadav, triggering a discussion on the need to reconsolidate the ‘bahujan samaj’. After all he is an OBC and there is little difference in the social status of a Dalit and a poor Yadav,” Dalit activist Dr Satish Prakash says.

The chief minister remained oblivious to the reaction that his “routine ritual” evoked in the community the BJP was trying to woo. “The demand for unity grew after encounters (some Yadavs) and cases of atrocities on Dalits increased,” says Satya Prakash Teetal, another Dalit activist.

He says the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leadership responded to the growing sentiments by putting up a unity show in March bypolls to two Lok Sabha seats. It’s the same BSP that fought the 2017 UP assembly polls to defeat the SP, an arch-rival of 20 years.

Prakash says: “Don’t we have differences in our families? But don’t we unite whenever we face a crisis. It is a question of dignity and survival in a society in which our caste has become our names.”

According to a BSP leader, Mayawati has shown her power in the BJP’s bypoll defeat and it’s time for the SP and other parties to show their respective strengths. “Her ability to transfer votes is unquestionable. Can Akhilesh transfer SP votes?” he asks.

It was in 1993 when the catchphrase of a SP-BSP alliance “Mile Mulayam Kanshi Ram, hawa mein ud gaya Jai Shri Ram” drowned the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan. A “bahujan samaj” government was formed.

But the alliance collapsed as Dalits and Yadavs were not the best of friends. Dalits under the Congress had aligned with Brahmins and Muslims, clashing largely with OBCs over land.

The animosity between Dalits and OBCs grew as caste identity led them in different directions. But after BJP’s resurgence changed equations.

“It’s a question of survival for both the party and the polity in the prevailing political scenario. The cadre is restless after losing control of the state they ruled for two decades,” a BSP leader says. The 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly elections have been learning experiences.

According to Teetal, a desperate attempt is being made to create a wedge between the two caste groups. He cited a teenager’s indecent posts on social media, primarily to infuriate the Dalits.

BJP’s counter

The BJP is returning to quota politics, while continuing Hindutva as a unifying issue. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath hinted at the government’s move to introduce quota within quota for the most backward castes, which Union home minister Rajnath Singh introduced as a new reservation policy in September 2001. It was stayed by the Supreme Court.

Singh’s experiment didn’t yield any political dividend as the BJP landed just 100 seats in state elections in 2002. A committee to find the shortcomings reported: Yadavs and Jatavs were major beneficiaries of quotas for OBC and SC/ST in the state.

The BJP strategy was to try to win the neglected castes as the prosperous among the OBCs and Dalits had well-defined loyalties. Their social alliance worked in both 2014 and 2017 elections. Thus, it’s back to quota within quota as the SP and BSP come closer to stop the BJP’s march.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 08:00 IST