They hold him responsible for the sidelining of senior Brahmin leaders - M.M.Joshi, Kalraj Mishra and Kesharinath Tripathi
“Rajnath Singh has to sweat it out. He played the wrong game and could pay the price for humiliating Brahmins,” says a senior BJP functionary, belonging to the Brahmin community, in Lucknow. “Some sections of the workers are angry. There is a strong perception that he will struggle to win from here due to this discontent,” the leader, who did not want to be quoted, said.
Mr. Singh, the BJP president and candidate in Lucknow, is facing the heat, as he has to get the support of both Brahmins and Muslims. BJP office-bearers say a section of Brahmin leaders within the party is proving to be a hurdle in Mr. Singh’s campaign. They hold him responsible for the sidelining of senior Brahmin leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra and Kesharinath Tripathi, while those from the Thakur community such as Jagdambika Pal were rewarded with ticket.
Observers say this could be the return of the Brahmin-Thakur strife of the 1990s within the BJP.
The section aggressively opposing Mr. Singh seems to be Narendra Modi's supporters. While it is unclear if Mr. Singh will face the wrath of the Brahmins, he has religiously displayed camaraderie with Lalji Tandon, the sitting MP who vacated the seat for him, and evoked the legacy of the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in a bid to win over the community. Therefore, Mr. Tandon, a close aide of Mr. Vajpayee, is considered key to Mr. Singh’s prospects.
Mr. Tandon does not dismiss the idea of Brahmin displeasure with the BJP outright, but he claims that in the end the community will rise above these factors while voting. “Brahmins will vote for national interest, and they see Modi as the person to lead the country,” he said.
Brahmins, who compromise around 10 per cent of the electorate in U.P., are of numerical importance in around 20 constituencies. They have been known to vote tactically and in the 2007 and 2012 Assembly elections sided with the winning parties, the BSP and the SP respectively.
Anand Pradhan, Professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, New Delhi, agrees that while the Brahmins could pose a problem for Mr. Singh, they will ultimately rally behind the BJP across the State as the party was a “natural choice” for them.
Community and fringe organisations not so hushed in their dissent and have raised their pitch for the restoration of the ‘Brahman Sammaan’.
The Brahman Yuvajan Sabha held a mahasabha in Varanasi on Friday to "expose the anti-Brahmin" stance of the BJP, evoking the role of the community in the BJP's rise in the 1990s.
Analysts, however, believe these are part of bargaining tactics employed by the community leaders to claim keyposts if the party comes to power. While the Brahmins are not averse to falling behind Dalit or OBC leadership in U.P., a section fears that with the general elections, the BJP is transforming into an ‘OBC party’.
In a bid to cash in on the uneasy relations between the BJP and the Brahmins, BSP supremo Mayawati has voiced her opinion on the "ill-treatment" meted out to community leaders by the BJP. Her party has fielded 21 Brahmin candidates.
But Mr. Pradhan opines that since Brahmins realise their importance in the revival of the BJP in U.P., they would side with the party.
Moreover, the party cannot afford to lose the support of the community, as it is yet to fully penetrate the OBC and MBC communities.