If the Samajwadi Party comes to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2022, it would conduct a caste census of the OBC communities, its president and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said on Sunday.
“How much time will it take in the age of technology,” asked Mr. Yadav, while addressing a gathering of workers of the Mahan Dal.
In a bid to counter the BJP’s strategy of pitting the Yadavs versus the other OBCs — the largest community bloc in U.P. — Mr. Yadav has forged an alliance with the Mahan Dal, an OBC-based party headed by Keshav Dev Maurya.
On Sunday, the Mahan Dal held its workers meet at the SP’s headquarters and Mr. Yadav was the chief guest at the event. The auditorium resonated with the chant, “ Mahan Dal de thahna hain, SP sarkar banana hain .”
Mr. Yadav said the BJP would never conduct a caste census “because they know who are more in numbers,” a reference to the numerically-dominant OBCs.
In the past few elections in U.P., the BJP has successfully been able to pit the non-Yadav castes against the Yadavs, who are the core support base of the SP. Sunday’s event was one of the few occasions when Mr. Yadav tried to address that question, though in a mild fashion.
He warned the Mahan Dal support base of Maurya, Kushwaha, Sakhya and Saini communities that as elections come near, the discussion on the binary of Yadav vs non-Yadav would get intensified by the BJP.
“They created a fight between us saying that Yadavs stole all [your] rights. Sometimes they say we snatched everyone’s rights, the rights of pichdas (Backward Caste),” Mr. Yadav said.
The SP president also dismissed the BJP’s claims of being the “biggest well-wisher” of the OBC and Dalits, accusing the party of snatching their rights and honour.
The Mahan Dal has a base among the backward caste Maurya-Shakya-Kushwaha-Saini communities, traditionally associated with growing vegetables and farming. In the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it allied with the Congress but fared poorly. In 2014, it forfeited deposits on all three seats it got as part of the alliance — Budaun, Etah and Nagina, securing less than 23,000 votes. In 2019, too, it supported the Congress, which eventually won only one seat.
Mr. Maurya, who started his career with the Samajwadi Party, said his fight was to provide “honour and share” in the power to the Maurya, Kushwaha, Sakhya and Saini castes.
He claimed his outfit could damage the BJP by 15,000-20,000 votes in each constituency.
Apart from the Mahan Dal, the SP already has the support of the Rashtriya Lok Dal headed by Jayant Chaudhary in west U.P. and the Janvadi Party (Socialist) of Sanjay Chauhan, who commands support among the OBC Noniya Chauhan caste.
In the 2017 Assembly election, the JPS had supported the BSP. In 2012, it had secured a decent 2.3% votes in the 35 seats it contested. In the 2019 Lok Sabha, Mr. Chauhan contested as an SP candidate from Chandauli but lost by a thin margin of 15,000 votes.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, also an OBC leader from east U.P. and president of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, has also indicated that his party’s first preference for an alliance would be the SP. However, no commitment has come about on that front from either of the parties.