Mayawati and Congress’ Jitin Prasada want to win back the Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh, and this race got tighter after the ‘encounter’ of notorious criminal Vikas Dubey. Both want to cash in on the apparent disenchantment of the Brahmins from the BJP’s Yogi Adityanath government.
Brahmins have found a safe home in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for many years now. Will this attempt by the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to woo the Brahmins yield results or be an exercise in futility? My take is that however hard they may try, the Brahmins will not switch sides in Uttar Pradesh.
Warming up to the Brahmins
Two days after Vikas Dubey’s death, BSP president Mayawati tweeted: “The government should not do any such work that would make the Brahmin community feel scared, terrorised and insecure.”
2. साथ ही, यूपी सरकार अब खासकर विकास दुबे-काण्ड की आड़ में राजनीति नहीं बल्कि इस सम्बंध में जनविश्वास की बहाली हेतु मजबूत तथ्यों के आधार पर ही कार्रवाई करे तो बेहतर है। सरकार ऐसा कोई काम नहीं करे जिससे अब ब्राह्मण समाज भी यहाँ अपने आपको भयभीत, आतंकित व असुरक्षित महसूस करे।
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) July 12, 2020
As for the Congress, what Prasada is doing is merely an extension of the political move that is coming from the party’s top leadership—Priyanka Gandhi has been trying to woo back the Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Prasada, who recently launched the ‘Brahmin Chetna Parishad’ to safeguard the interest of the Brahmin community in Uttar Pradesh, said: “At the moment, data tells us that Brahmin killings are disproportionately high, more than the other castes.”
आइये “ब्रह्म चेतना संवाद” कार्यक्रम के माध्यम से एक दूसरे से जुड़े……..🙏 pic.twitter.com/y18ZB0EFis
— Jitin Prasada जितिन प्रसाद (@JitinPrasada) July 6, 2020
Brahmin appeasement is not a new thing
This is not for the first time that the BSP and the Congress are trying to woo the Brahmins.
Rahul Gandhi has gone too far to prove his Kaul Brahmin ancestry and also found out that he belongs to Dattatreya Gotra. The Congress’ structure is still Brahmin-dominated despite the party not getting substantial Brahmin votes. This is the legacy of the past when the Brahmins were the captive vote bank of the Congress.
The BSP has also gone the extra mile to adapt to Sarvajan politics. It has appointed Brahmins as leader of the party in both the houses of Parliament—Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. I can’t recall any other national party to have ever done something like this. During the BSP government in UP, the Brahmins got the maximum number of cabinet berths. The BSP also fielded largest Brahmin contingent in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in UP. Despite that, all its Brahmin candidates, other than Ritesh Pandey, lost. Pandey won from Ambedkar Nagar seat. The district has around 25 per cent Dalit population and negligible Brahmin population.
But why have Brahmins remained coy?
Notwithstanding their outreach to the Brahmin community, these parties are not getting any traction from them. According to the post-poll survey by Lokniti-CSDS, more than 80 per cent Brahmins in UP voted for the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha election. This is in continuation with the pattern started in 2014 Lok Sabha election, which was repeated in 2017 assembly election.
Only the Congress of yesteryears has enjoyed such loyalty of Brahmin voters. The Congress lost Brahmin support in the 1980s and early 1990s. Political scientist Arvind Kumar cites five primary reasons for the disenchantment of the Brahmins from the Congress and their flocking towards the BJP: 1. the implementation of Mandal Commission report and OBC reservation in central government jobs and educational institutions; 2. the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits; 3. Shah Bano judgment and perceived act of the Congress to appease the Muslims; 4. aggressive assertion of the Dalits and the OBCs in the social and political space, especially the rise of Kanshiram, Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav; 5. proliferation of religious TV serials and resultant religiosity.
After doing some brief experiments with regional political parties, the Brahmins in north India, in 2014, found their ultimate home in the BJP.
The BJP is taking care of some of the main concerns of the Brahmin community. The party has completely stopped the so called Muslim appeasement (Sachhar committee has demonstrated that this is entirely false notion) and rather started persecuting the minority through various means. Some of these methods have the legal-constitutional backing—the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Population Register. Other means include its offshoots indulging in mob lynchings, spreading the communal disharmony in the name of Love Jihad, spewing hate on social media and running campaigns to boycott Muslim traders among others. The BJP has also acted decisively in Jammu and Kashmir by diluting Article 370 and bifurcating the state. Such acts too soothe the emotional wounds of the Brahmins.
The BJP is also working aggressively to restore the old Brahminical caste order by undermining the provisions of reservation in government jobs and education. It has amended the Article 15(4) and 16(4) to tweak the Constitution so that the upper caste candidates can get 10 per cent EWS reservation. Though the Congress and the BSP have supported the Constitution amendment, the Brahmins also know it well that these parties never took any initiative to implement Savarna reservation.
The Narendra Modi government is recruiting a large number of bureaucrats through lateral entry mechanism. This will also nullify some effects of the reservation policy. BJP-led state governments have also placed the Brahmins and the upper caste bureaucrats in key positions in ministries and other institutions.
The Modi government has also tried to nullify the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. In 2018, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh had told the Supreme Court that “in 70% of the cases filed under the Act, the accused is acquitted and so these cases are fake.” This assertion of the law officer of the Modi government had led to a judgment that had nearly finished the core objective of the SC-ST Act. After nationwide protests, the government passed a Bill to put the Act back in its original shape.
BJP marinating the upper cast hegemony
Brahmins have noticed the sincerity and honesty of the BJP in maintaining the hegemony of the caste structure. No other party can match the BJP in this arena as parties like the Congress and the BSP have to cater to other voting blocs too. The Congress can’t shut the door on the Muslims and the Dalits, and the BSP can’t antagonise its core Dalit voters while appeasing the Brahmins. This is a real Catch-22 situation for the BSP as its core voters are ideologically trained to fight against the Savarna hegemony, and if the party goes too far to woo the Brahmins, then there is a chance that its core voters will desert it or may, at least, get disenchanted.
But the main reason why the Brahmins will not ditch the BJP is because in parties like the BSP, they will have a subservient role to play under a Dalit-dominated leadership. The experiment to include Brahmins in the party undertaken by Mayawati in the 2007 UP assembly election is a proof to this.
Today, both the BJP and BSP are trying to catch all, like the Congress of yesteryears. The only difference between the two is that the BJP is wooing without disturbing the core of its political leadership–it still cherishes the primacy of Vedic Hinduidm.
Even if there is a turf war going on between the Thakurs and the Brahmins in UP, the BJP has enough elbow room to placate both the castes. As both the communities can be cajoled to see the Muslims as common potent threat, and be convinced that only the BJP can keep the aspirations of the SCs and the OBCs in control, they will remain loyal to the party. There is no possibility of them joining the BSP or the Congress. Not in the near future.
Dilip Mandal is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi Magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology.