The test for Mayawati’s Dalit-Brahmin social engineering against the upper-caste consolidation behind the BJP begins in Amedkarnagar, formerly Akbarpur, the constituency she has won successively in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Even in 2009, after the seat was dereserved and renamed, the Brahmin-Dalit plank saw BSP candidate Rakesh Pandey through; he defeated the BJP’s Vinay Katiyar by 35,000 votes.
Mayawati has renominated Pandey while the BJP, which has never won this seat, including during the Ram temple movement, has fielded Hari Om Pandey, a Brahmin.
There is some disappointment among BJP supporters over the choice of candidate, whom they consider a relative lightweight against sitting MP Pandey and the SP’s Ram Murti Verma (a minister in state government). There is, however, a growing chorus of support for the BJP from members of various other communities – Kurmi, Rajbhar, Nishad and even young Yadavs. These voices are rooting for Narendra Modi as prime minister.
The Brahmins, who appear to be weighing the BSP and BJP options, are keen on keeping the SP out and want to avoid splitting their votes between the two Brahmin candidates.
“The BJP did not win this seat even during the Ram wave. If it wins this election, then the BJP will win most seats in UP. But, should it appear as if the SP candidate will win, Brahmins will shift to the BSP to keep the SP out,” is the reasoning of Vijay Mishra of Tiwaripur village.
The SP is counting on the consolidation of the substantial Kurmi population behind its candidate, who belongs to the community. Katiyar’s defeat last time had upset Kurmis; the SP hopes that will drive them to rally behind Verma.
But such is the disillusionment against the SP regime is such that even a Kurmi father whose daughter benefited from Akhilesh Yadav’s laptop scheme is reluctant to support the SP candidate. While members of other communities believe the Kurmis will vote for the SP, many Kurmi villagers say they are upset with the SP regime for what they see as favourable treatment to minorities.
The murmurs among even diehard BJP supporters about how lightweight their candidate is, however, highlights the challenge ahead of the BJP in its effort to scale the BSP bastion. Some suggest the party should have fielded Vinay Katiyar once again to capitalise on what they call a “Modi wave” and consolidate the Kurmi support base to shock Mayawati in her den.
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