Lucknow: Caste has always been an important factor in Uttar Pradesh, but under Yogi Adityanath’s BJP government in particular, there is a growing perception that Brahmins have been neglected, resulting in all parties scrambling to win over the community.
In Deoria assembly constituency, which will see one of seven assembly by-elections in UP on 3 November, all major parties have fielded a Brahmin candidate, and each of them has the same last name — Tripathi. This has led the locals to coin a popular saying — ‘Vote kisi ko do, jeetega Tripathi hi’ (vote for anyone, a Tripathi will win).
Former UP minister Brahmashankar Tripathi is the Samajwadi Party’s candidate, while the BJP has fielded degree college teacher Dr Satyaprakash Mani Tripathi. The Congress is represented by local leader Mukund Bhaskar Mani Tripathi, while the BSP is fielding Abhayanath Tripathi, who quit his government job to join politics.
The by-election is being held after the death of incumbent MLA Janmejay Singh, who died due to cardiac issues in August.
The Deoria seat was created in 1967, and has witnessed 14 elections so far. On six of those occasions, a member of the backward classes won the seat. Brahmins, Bhumihars and Muslims have won the seat twice each, while the Thakur and Kayastha communities’ representatives have won once each.
A big vote bank
Deoria voter and writer Sandeep Pandey told ThePrint that Brahmins constitute anywhere between 20 to 25 per cent of the electorate, and given the perception that Brahmins have been sidelined under a Thakur chief minister in Yogi Adityanath, the Congress made the first move by fielding Bhaskar Mani.
The BSP followed suit by giving the ticket to Abhayanath, who had fought the 2017 election too, and then the SP brought in Brahmashankar, considered a heavyweight candidate. Thus, the BJP was compelled to bring in a Brahmin candidate too — Satyaprakash Mani — because if it hadn’t, that would’ve further fuelled the ‘anti-Brahmin’ charge against it.
Kaviraj, professor of political science at Lucknow University, concurred that all parties were wooing Brahmins at the moment, and said they consider the ‘Brahmin versus Thakur’ narrative to be their ticket to the community’s 12 per cent vote across the state.
Brahmins’ disenchantment with Yogi & BJP
The discussion about Brahmins’ growing disenchantment with the BJP had started soon after the formation of the Yogi Adityanath government. These murmurs got louder after the dramatic encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey, which all Brahmin organisations questioned. The All India Brahmin Mahasabha had said that in the last two years, more than 500 Brahmins have been killed in UP.
Congress’ Brahmin leader and former Union minister Jitin Prasada soon launched an initiative called ‘Brahmin Chetna Samvad’, while SP’s former minister Abhishek Mishra announced the installation of a 108-foot statue of Lord Parashuram in Lucknow to woo the community. BSP supremo Mayawati then promised that if she comes back to power in 2022, she will install an even bigger statue of Parashuram.
In all, the Congress has fielded three Brahmins on the seven seats up for by-polls, while the BSP has fielded two, and the SP and BJP one each.
Jitin Prasada told ThePrint that it’s good that all parties have now started discussing the Brahmins’ interests, “because for the last three years, Brahmins are being continuously neglected in UP”.
“The BJP government is fully responsible for this. But now Brahmins have united and made everyone realise their strength. This is the reason why all of them are hedging their bets on Brahmins,” Prasada said.
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