The ruling SP’s attempts to include 17 backward sub-castes in the Scheduled Castes list just before Assembly polls has got an otherwise divided Opposition unitedly gauging the move as an attempt to nullify their own attempts to make in-roads into this massive vote bank.
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The BSP, BJP and many other Opposition parties have condemned the SP’s latest attempt — it was turned down by the Allahabad High Court and Centre in 2013 — as a ‘mere stunt’, asking it to instead make an “MBC (most backward class) or a non-Yadav its state president or chief ministerial candidate”.
While sub-castes like Kahar, Kashyap, Kewat, Nishad are present both in western and eastern UP, castes like Bind, Bhar, Dhimar, Turha are largely present in Bundelkhand and the eastern UP belt. Rajbhars, Kumhars and Prajapatis are dominant in both eastern and central UP.
The BJP, which has been working towards capitalising on this vote share, has seen SP’s move as a strategy to make a dent into its own efforts to capitalise on “non-Yadav OBC” votes. Before Lok Sabha elections, it had struck an alliance with Apna Dal and made its leader Anupriya Patel a Union minister. Subsequently, it tried to rope in OBC leaders including former Opposition leader of the state Assembly, Swami Prasad Maurya, from BSP. Recently, it appointed former BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan — who joined as BJP after Lok Sabha polls — president of its national OBC Morcha. Keshav Prasad Maurya, MP and OBC leader, is its state president.
Over the past few months, BJP has started holding OBC conventions, trying to touch 200 of 403 Assembly constituencies in UP. Ashok Kataria, who is in-charge of these conventions and also BJP state general secretary, said SP is well-aware that it is not under the state’s jurisdiction to make inclusions into the SC list and alleged it has been done at the last moment “just to create confusion”.
“Pichhdi jati ki yaad tab kyon aayi jab ja rahe hain. Itni hi chinta hai to Shivpal Singh Yadav ko hata kar, kisi ati pichhde ko pradesh adyaksha kyon nahi bana dete, ya mukhyamantri pad ka davedaar bana dete (If SP cares so much about MBCs, why did they not remove Shivpal Singh and make an MBC state president or even a claimant for the CM’s post?),” asked Kataria. He further asked why SP did not raise the issue in Delhi over the past five years.
On Friday, Om Prakash Rajbhar, president of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, which has considerable penetration among “non-Yadav OBCs” of eastern UP, said, “It is a mere stunt by SP as these castes are spread all across UP. They play a significant role in each Assembly constituency, ranging from 8000 votes to even forming 50 per cent of the voters in some constituencies.”
In July, Rajbhar had shared the stage with BJP national president Amit Shah in a rally in eastern UP’s Mau district, where they had announced a pre-poll alliance. “If SP was actually serious about these sub-castes, why did they not give special benefits to them under OBC quota, which is very much under the purview of the state government, rather than announcing this just before elections?” he asked.
Ram Achal Rajbhar, BSP state president, called it a “desperate move” and said, “Mulayam Singh Yadav cannot even see other Yadavs progressing, forget about thinking of OBCs. They have a realisation that other backward castes especially MBCs are not happy with them because of obvious reasons and even the Yadavs of regions beyond Etawah, Etah, Mainpuri and Firozabad feel they have been neglected. Thus, it is a mere eye wash, otherwise they should have given a chance to someone beyond their family to become a state president.”
Congress chairman of the SC department, Bhagwati Prasad Chaudhary, said, “OBCs already have 27 per cent reservation, so why do they wish to enter more OBCs into SC? They wish to reserve OBC benefits for a selected caste only.”
Minister and SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said the Opposition should be “thankful” to the CM for “taking the initiative to help these castes which are economically backward”. “So what if the decision was turned down in the past? That does not mean that the chief minister cannot take the same step again to bring social justice,” he added.