Supporters speak about the plight of the party’s senior Brahmin leaders — Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra and Kesari Nath Tripathi
In the sleepy village of Maghaer tucked away in Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar Lok Sabha constituency, it is close to noon. “In these elections, Brahmins are, on principle, with the BJP, but more so if the candidate is a Brahmin,” Parmatma Prasad Mishra, a retired government employee tells me, and then pauses to add, “But when the BJP candidate is a Thakur, our community may not vote as enthusiastically for the party.”
Expanding on his theme, he says, “(BJP president) Rajnath Singh is practising Thakurwad, promoting his community at the expense of others.” He then rattles off the names of a string of 15-odd Thakur candidates the party has fielded from Lucknow, Faizabad, Kaiserganj, Gonda, Bhadohi, Domariaganj, Gorakhpur, among others, to make his point.
He then goes on to speak about the plight of the party’s senior Brahmin leaders — Murli Manohar Joshi being “forced” to move from Varanasi to Kanpur, Kalraj Mishra being pushed to distant Deoria and Kesari Nath Tripathi’s claims to contesting Allahabad being denied altogether.
In Sant Kabir Nagar, however, where both the BJP and the BSP have fielded Brahmins, Mr. Mishra says, are tilting towards the BJP, because the BSP candidate — and sitting MP Kushal Tewari — has not worked during his tenure.
Indeed, the story within the larger story of the “Modi wave” sweeping Uttar Pradesh is the one about the widening of the Brahmin-Thakur faultline, particularly in the central and eastern part of the State.
In Bhadohi, where the BJP candidate Virendra Singh Mast is a Thakur, while the BSP and the Samajwadi Party have both fielded Brahmins, Rakeshdhar Tripathi and Seema Mishra, the community appears to prefer Mr. Tripathi. In Saidabad under the Bhadohi constituency, Kailash Nath Dubey, who recently retired from the Army, and professes support for the BJP and particularly its Hindutva ideology, says, “Brahmins here will largely go for Mr. Tripathi.”
“In the years after Independence, the community was with the Congress; in the 1990s, it shifted its allegiance to the BJP after the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. In the 2007 Assembly elections, Brahmins created public opinion for the BSP as Mayawati fielded many Brahmin candidates, who got the benefit of her dalit support base. In fact, the BSP won a majority in U.P. that year thanks to the success of Mayawati's Brahmin project. But this time, the Brahmins feel neglected, so they have fallen silent: they will just try and maximise the number of Brahmin MPs,” Ram Sanehi Chaubey, a retired postmaster from Lohandi, Sonebhadra, says, confirming this trend. The promotion of Thakurs by the BJP, he says, has upset his community who feel they have no party they can call their own.
It’s mid-day at the Allahabad High Court, and the labyrinthine corridors and stairwells, stained and scarred, an unhappy contrast to the building's magnificent exterior, are choked with lawyers, court clerks and litigants.
“The BJP’s campaign is being driven by the media and the corporates, land is being sold in Gujarat at throwaway prices. People are being made to believe its Modi all the way, but the ground situation is very different,” Daya Shankar Mishra, a senior lawyer, says. “Last time, the BJP promised to build the temple — it didn’t. There are limits to this fraud. Do you think everyone is a fool?”
Indeed in these elections, U.P.’s Brahmins, who make up 10 per cent of the electorate (compared with Thakurs who account for 8 per cent) and matter in 20 of the 80 constituencies in the State are standing at a political crossroads again.
The “Modi wave” should have seen the community wholeheartedly rushing back to the BJP, but the pre-eminence in the State of Mr. Rajnath Singh has made its members less than enthusiastic for the party: a slogan being repeated privately in Brahmin circles says it all: “Modi ko jitana hain, to Rajnath ko harana hain. (If Modi is to win, Rajnath has to be defeated).”