Lok Sabha Election

Fragmentation of OBCs may be helping BJP in Uttar Pradesh

Religious appeal Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav’s speeches are often peppered with its Hindu references.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The fragmentation of backward caste politics in Uttar Pradesh could be helping the BJP in this election, even as the the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are increasingly being reduced to represent only the Yadavs and the Jatavs, respectively. Communities that have some exposure to organisational politics and have leaders who could develop a theoretical basis for their individual identity have formed their own parties, while the residual groups have migrated to the BJP.

“Backward castes are very vulnerable to religious appeals, slogans of national glory, anti-Pakistan rhetoric etc. This is in contrast to Dalits who have an alternative social vision, thanks largely to Kanshi Ram’s efforts in educating them,” said Ramesh Kumar Maurya, who leads Jansanskriti Manch, a Left-leaning cultural organisation in Azamgarh.

“To escape the imposed inferiority, they tend to take up national questions and try to escape issues nearer to their day-to-day lives. They fall for the BJP propaganda very easily.”

The SP is trying to deal with this situation with a dose of Hindu appeal. Its chief Akhilesh Yadav’s speeches are often peppered with its Hindu credentials. Last week he said in Faizabad: “Samajwadis have always supported the upkeep of temples…There are too many dilapidated temples that are being managed by our sadhus, in the face of a lot of difficulties, in Ayodhya. When we come to power, we shall take care of them,” adding that “the coexistence of all religions and castes is the beauty of our society..”

In 2018, he had promised to build a city named after the Hindu god Vishnu, which will have a temple inspired by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex in Etawah. While this may help him hold on to his Yadav base, he may not be as lucky with non-Yadav backward castes, such as Kurmis.

Some communities such as Rajbhars and Nishads are trying to chart an autonomous course through their own parties, a move that both the SP and the BJP resent. Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) led by Om Prakash Rajbhar did not get a deal with the BJP and has been campaigning against the BJP while continuing to be a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government in UP. He has fielded several candidates, more in an effort to play spoilsport and increase his bargaining power in the future. The Nishad Party is contesting from one seat, but on a BJP ticket, an offer that Mr. Rajbhar refused.

“Both the BJP and the SP wanted Mr. Rajbhar and Mr. Nishad to give up their individual identity and contest on their respective symbols,” said Manoj Kumar Singh, a political commentator in Gorakhpur.

Janwadi Socialist Party, another small caste outfit led by Sanjay Chouhan is contesting in Chandauli on an SP ticket. The Congress also has roped in Mahan Dal, an outfit of Mauryas, a faction of Apna Dal, a Kurmi outfit and a Kushwaha outfit.

“There is an ideological vacuum in backward politics. There used to be an intellectual stream among the backward castes but that has dried up long ago and there is no effort to formulate an ideology,” said Mr. Maurya. Mr. Rajbhar and Sanjay Nishad, the leader of the Nishad Party both have BSP background and they try to expound an autonomous politics of their own. This too often plays into Hindutva hands, at least in the case of Mr. Rajbhar.

“The whole history of the Rajbhar community has been presented as a conflict against the Muslims, with the active help of the RSS. ‘We are the protectors of Hinduism’ has been instilled as part of the community’s consciousness,” said Ramji Yadav, editor of Gaon Ke Log, a progressive Hindi magazine published from Varanasi.

Mr. Singh said Mr. Nishad continues to hold to Ambedkarite politics despite the fact his son Praveen Nishad is contesting on a BJP ticket from Sant Kabir Nagar.

“He has written a series of tracts, organises training camps for community members and is relentlessly building a theory for his party,” said Mr. Singh.

Both SBSP and the Nishad Party have already become family enterprises and could be vulnerable to Hindutva poaching. Apna Dal, a BJP ally of the Kurmis, is struggling hard to sustain its autonomoy and some of its candidates are contesting on the lotus symbol.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 11:54:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/fragmentation-of-obcs-may-be-helping-bjp-in-uttar-pradesh/article27109713.ece

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