(This is a preview of the Political Line newsletter written by The Hindu's senior political correspondent Varghese K. George. You can subscribe to the newsletter here and get it in your inbox every Friday)
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, both former Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, have been lying low since the 2019 Lok Sabha election. With the 2022 Assembly election around the corner, both are waking up from their slumber. The focus of their early moves appears to be Brahmins. Ms. Mayawati has designated Brahmin leader Satish Mishra to lead a special campaign among the community .
As soon as the BSP announced its campaign, the Samajwadi Party tried to push back. Its Brahmin leader Abhishek Mishra said the community still remembered the “oppression” faced under Ms. Mayawati's rule through “false” cases lodged under the SC/ST Act.
In the 2017 Assembly election and the parliamentary elections of 2014 and 2019, Brahmins rallied behind the Bharatiya Janata Party. Why is the community so important in the politics of the biggest State of India? In an earlier piece I had explained this: “The disproportionate association of negative attributes such as inefficiency, corruption, nepotism and policy paralysis with OBCs, Dalit and minority leaders in public debates is not accidental but often an outcome of curated hegemonic discourses. The 2007 slogan that heralded the Jatav-Brahmin social coalition that catapulted Ms. Mayawati to power in U.P. creatively linked the emergence of any fresh political narrative to caste hierarchy — ‘Brahmin Shankh Bajayaenge Toh Haathi Badta Jaayega (If the Brahmin keeps blowing the conch, the elephant will keep moving forward)’. The Brahmins, estimated to be above 10% of the U.P. voters, are the most impactful swing voters anywhere in India at the moment. In 2007, their support brought Ms. Mayawati to power; in 2012, they moved en masse to Akhilesh Yadav who became the Chief Minister; and in 2017, they moved en masse to the BJP that won .”
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