In his most aggressive pitch for a caste census for the Backward Castes yet, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday promised members of the OBC community in Uttar Pradesh that if voted to power his government would carry out such an exercise and provide them “rights, honour and representation” as per their share in the population.
The formula of providing communities as per their population was “an old fight,” Mr. Yadav said, sprinkling the flavour and rhetoric of “Bahujan” politics through terms like haq, abadi ke hisaab se, hissedari and bhagidhari to his campaign, something that he shied away from in the last election, where he solely relied on a development-centric model of governance.
Discrimination within castes
Tasked with the challenge of bridging the political gap between the Yadav and non-Yadav OBCs, Mr. Yadav, without naming any community, said the BJP in the last election had propagated that Yadavs would take all jobs and employment opportunities. “These people make castes fight each other. If you remember in the last election, they had said if any job or employment opportunity comes up, then these people [Yadavs] get it. They created discrimination within castes,” said Mr. Yadav.
He was addressing a rally in Hardoi to mark the 15th foundation day of Arkvanshi icon Maharaja Salhiya Singh. Arkvanshis are an OBC caste, among the many scattered backward communities looking for better representation.
Mr. Yadav, who has so far gathered the support of five other OBC-based parties, said he was forming a “bouquet” of different communities. He said the BJP was not conducting a caste census, which would reveal the population of the OBCs in the country, because the party was headed by people who were claiming to be OBC but were actually so only on paper and were roaming about with “paper certificates”.
Though Mr. Yadav did not name anyone, his attack was apparently against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has flaunted his OBC Teli background in the elections in U.P. since 2014.
Mr. Yadav also took a dig at the “upper caste” base of the BJP, which was once considered to be a party backed by only Brahmins and Banias.
Paper, original certificates
“Those who don’t want to do caste census have paper certificates. But those who are standing here have original certificates. They know that when there will be a caste census, their numbers won’t be prominent. They are not that many in numbers the way they are accounting for it,” said the former Chief Minister.
A major line of attack against the SP by the BJP has been that when the SP comes to power, the Yadav caste gets the cream of entitlements, privileges and share in jobs while the other OBC communities are left under-represented. While there is no empirical evidence for this, Mr. Yadav has in this election taken steps to change the narrative by allying with parties representing the interests of Jat, Kurmi, Rajbhar, Maurya-Kushwaha, and Chauhan communities and tried to communicate to them that the BJP was dividing the OBCs.
The OBCs are estimated to be 40-45% of the State’s population, being the largest chunk of voters. Dalits are 21.5% and Muslims 19.5%.