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Beyond minor tweaks, BJP, SP, BSP are still following old caste, religion formulas in UP

The seat allocation in UP tells us India is still a country of communities, and society formation is largely an unfinished task.

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Distribution of tickets in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly election tells us something important about the tactics of political parties. Scholar of political science, Arvind Kumar has done primary data collection of social and religious backgrounds of candidates of three main political formations in UP. It gives us insights into the functioning and mindsets of the political parties. I am culling out the findings that I think are crucial. The data is for all the 403 assembly seats in the state.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is going solo in this election, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have formed coalitions. Here are the important points to note:

BJP and allies: The party has allotted the largest number of seats (173) to upper caste candidates. In this broad category, the Thakurs/Rajputs have got the largest share (71), followed closely by the Brahmins (68). The BJP hasn’t given a single seat to Muslims. It has given fair representation to the OBCs (143). In the OBCs, the party has prioritised the Kurmis and the Mauryas/Kushwahas. In the Schedule Caste (SC) seats, BJP has given almost equal representation to the Chamars/Jatavs (27) and the Pasis (25).

SP and allies: The party led by Akhilesh Yadav gave the largest chunk (171) of its tickets to the OBCs. The Yadavs (52) and the Kurmis (37) have got a fair share of seats, so have the Muslims (63) and the Brahmins (39). In the SC seats, the Jatavs/Chamars (42) got the largest share of seats.

BSP: Mayawati’s party is largely banking on Muslim (86), Brahmin (70) and Jatav/Chamar (65) candidates. The OBC representation in BSP tickets is good (114), but is still less than that of the other two formations. Among the OBCs, the BSP has given priority to Kurmis (24), Yadavs (18) and Mauryas/Kushwahas (17).


Also read: Samajwadi Party promises social justice, but look who got tickets in 2022. Not enough Muslims


BJP, SP, BSP’s plans

The seat allocation by these parties is in line with their politics. It tells us that despite being a modern political system, democracy in India is still largely a communitarian concept and caste and religious identities play a crucial role in electoral mobilisation. In that sense, India is a country of communities, and society formation is still ongoing and largely an unfinished task.

The BJP is continuing with its saga of Hindu-Muslim binary. Not giving a single seat to a community that constitutes almost one-fifth of the entire population of UP sounds bizarre, but is quite fine for the BJP. Following the Savarkarite ideas of ‘Punya Bhumi’ and ‘Pitri Bhumi’, the BJP believes in the idea of othering Muslims, which is paying the party well in terms of electoral gain.

Another important part of the BJP story is the re-emergence of savarna or upper caste dominance in UP politics, under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath. After almost three decades of the Silent Revolution (emergence of the OBCs), the upper castes have had a grand comeback. The BJP led the charge this time. It has finally broken the domination of SP and BSP by luring certain sections away from them — non-Yadav OBCs from the SP and non-Jatav SCs from the BSP. It seems that the Brahmin-Thakur-Baniya trio has found its destination in the BJP and the party, in turn, is taking good care of them. Meanwhile, the BJP is trying to make inroads into the Jatavs/Chamars too.

As far as the SP is concerned, it is trying to replicate its old model. It is banking mainly on the Muslim-Yadav equation. This time around, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to forge a new social coalition with the Jats, Kurmis and Jatavs. Meanwhile, his party is also relying on the premise that Brahmins are not happy with Yogi Adityanath and so it has fielded a large number of Brahmins. Although Thakurs will probably not desert the BJP in this election, the SP has still fielded a good number of them because many Thakur leaders have old association with the SP and the party has not been able to set them aside while deciding on ticket distribution. The SP is eyeing OBC support based on its idea that the community is unhappy with the BJP government.

The BSP is trying to copy its 2007 model when the party came to power with a majority for the first and only time. As Arvind Kumar says, the BSP is replicating the good-old Congress model of Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit, albeit with one major difference. In the BSP model, the top slot goes to a Dalit leader. This time, the BSP has beaten SP by giving representation to Muslims and, at the same time, beaten the BJP by giving tickets to the Brahmins. This is the sarvajan model of the BSP.


Also read: Brahmin candidates aren’t BJP’s priority for UP. Dominant caste tickets belong to Rajputs


Sticking to core ideas

Other than minor tweaks, the parties in UP have followed their core ideas and have not transgressed much when it comes to ticket distribution. There are some unanswered questions like ‘will the Brahmins still vote for the BJP’ or ‘will a section of them shift their allegiance to the BSP and the SP?’ Similarly, will the non-Yadav OBCs switch sides and come to the SP fold? Will the Muslims vote for the Muslim candidate of the BSP? How will the Jatavs respond to the outreach by the SP and the BJP?

Above all, will there be any secular non-partisan issue? Many are wondering about the anti-incumbency factor against the Adityanath government and issues like joblessness, cattle menace, farmers’ distress, benefits of cash transfers, which will transcend all caste and religion boundaries and impact the voting behaviour of large sections of the electorate.

These answers will play a role in deciding the outcome of the 2022 UP assembly elections.   

The author is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi Magazine, and has written books on media and sociology. He tweets @Profdilipmandal. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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