Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati said on Sunday that President Ram Nath Kovind, who belongs to Dalit community, should have been invited to the bhoomi pujan ceremony in Ayodhya alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the same breadth, she announced, “When the BSP will come to power, a bigger and more grand statue of Lord Parashuram (a brahmin saint in epic Ramayana) would be erected than what the Samajwadi Party has promised. Had the SP been serious about Parashuram, it would have erected his statue when it was in power.” She also promised to set-up statues of great leaders of other castes as well.
Mayawati was responding to Samajwadi Party’s recent announcement to establish the tallest statue of Parashuram.
With the Parashuram statues gimmick, SP and BSP, both aim to woo Brahmins who feel to have been sidelined under the BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur.
Congress is also vying for the same vote bank. The party has launched Brahman Chetna Parishad headed by Jitin Prasada to reestablish its base among the community.
The next Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh are about one and half years away but all political outfits have already started preparing grounds. The coronavirus pandemic, which is expanding in the state fast, hasn’t deterred them.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken the lead with the ground breaking ceremony of the much awaited Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The party hopes that the temple agenda would be enough to sail through in the 2022 elections. After all, religion and caste-based politics have always had a deciding role in Uttar Pradesh elections.
The opposition will have to really work hard to take on BJP. While many communities of Dalits and OBCs mostly vote en masse, most upper caste communities change their preference in every election.
“This very segment is now being targeted for favour,” says
Thakur-Brahmin tussle is old
Political analysts remind that UP is known for the Thakur-Brahmin war for ages. The power tussle between Brahmin and Thakur is more profound in villages, small towns and cities.
Since CM Yogi Adityanath is a Thakur, the community has gone stronger in the last three years by bagging many plum posts in bureaucracy and otherwise. Brahmins feel less empowered although the deputy CM (Dinesh Sharma) is a brahmin. Similar was the scene when Rajnath Singh was CM of UP in 2001-2002,” says a leader.
Besides, in some heinous crime cases victims were Brahmins. This has hurt the community further.
While the Samajwadi Party had started a government holiday in the name of Parashuram and many other leaders, Yogi Adityanath had revoked the entire list.
To make matters worse, there is no strong Brahmin leader in UP in any party at present who can raise their voice. A BJP leader says, “There is too much talent in the community but very few opportunities which is quite frustrating.”
Can Brahmins play a decisive role in 2022?
Observers say no. In absence of any caste status, there is no clarity about population of brahmins or their share in votes. As per rough estimate, Brahmins constitute about 8-14 percent of the state’s headcount.
“They may be small in numbers compared to OBC and Dalits, but being a dominating community traditionally, Brahmins are big influencers just like Kayastha. Most of the Brahmins and Kayastha vote as per their own consciousness, but they influence their localities and villages and acquaintances,” a senior BJP leader says.
Rajeev Rai, Samajwadi Party leader, says, “Our party has always been supportive of Brahmins. In the Akhilesh government, from Assembly speaker to several ministers there were several Brahmins. It was the BJP dirty politics which sought to prove that we support and appoint only Yadavs.”
He alleges that it is the Yogi government which is playing dirty politics against Brahmins. “They are doing encounters of brahmin criminals like Vikas Dubey and Hanuman Pandey. Why do they leave Thakur criminals?” asks Rai, who is himself a Bhumihar Brahmin.
Congress claims that Brahmins would support the party as BJP and SP both cheated the community and BSP had failed them. Anshu Awasthi, Congress leader, says, “It was congress which appointed six brahmins on chief minister post in UP. Mayawati did nothing for the community even as 68 Brahmins were elected as MLAs in 2007 polls when she came to power. During the current BJP regime and previous SP government, Brahmins were murdered and attacked disproportionately.”
Prem Shukla, BJP spokesperson, says, “Most Brahmins don’t cast their votes in the name of community. Since independence, they have been voting as per their rashtriya chetna (national awakening) across the states. So, opposition parties will not be really successful in their attempt.”