It took seconds for Sant Kabir Nagar MP Sharad Tripathi to rain blows with his shoes on Mehdawal MLA Rakesh Singh Baghel, in full public glare in an incident in March, but it blew the lid off a festering issue that the BJP will have to address after the current Lok Sabha polls are done.
Mr. Tripathi may have earned universal opprobrium for what was extremely unseemly behaviour in March, but the reaction among Uttar Pradesh’s Brahmins, especially in eastern U.P., was one of righteous satisfaction. Mr. Tripathi, who was summoned to Lucknow by party president Mahendranath Pandey on March 7, following the incident, was joined en route by several prominent leaders of the Brahmin community, making it a show of strength. The MP was compared to Parashurama who waged war on Kshatriyas, just as Mr. Tripathi bested Mr. Baghel, who is a Rajput. For the BJP, which has secured the support of upper caste votes, the issue of how to douse this conflict was important. Brahmins with 12% vote and Rajputs with 8% vote share are both significant for the BJP to prevail in the State.
The solution was to drop Mr. Tripathi and give his father, former BJP U.P. president Ramapati Ram Tripathi the ticket to contest from Deoria. Peace was established, and the appeal of Prime Minister Modi has ensured that as of now, the community is solidly behind the BJP.
“The background to this issue lies in the diffused feeling among the Brahmin community that under the Yogi Adityanath government, they have been overlooked in favour of Rajputs or Thakurs,” said a senior leader of the BJP in Varanasi. Many cite the beginnings of the Adityanath government for this feeling.
“The State police raided the home of Hari Shankar Tiwari considered a leader among the community, especially in Gorakhpur and Poorvanchal, within six months of the BJP government coming to power. Mr. Tiwari has been in the Congress, BSP and SP previously and is considered a strongman of the area, which is known for the Rajput vs. Brahmin rivalry. Legend has it that tab tak baba ( as Mr. Tiwari is referred to ) ki chaukhat police ne kabhi nahin laanghi thi (till then the police had never entered his home),” said the leader.
Coupled with the fact that Yogi Adityanath’s personal aides were all from a particular community, has encouraged the view that the Brahmins do not have much traction under his government. This is, however, a problem that is not urgent as far as the current Lok Sabha election is concerned, but failure to address this may lead to some churn before the next Assembly polls, say local observers. “We want Modi ji as the Prime Minister, hence no one will vote for anyone else, but that may not hold true for the Assembly polls,” said one BJP supporter from the community who asked not to be named.
For the BJP, now past masters at “samikaran bithaana” (setting social coalitions right) the Lok Sabha polls will be a breather before some serious review.