Two days ago, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said that if voted to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2022, the party will build a grand statue of Lord Parshuram. A similar announcement was made by the Samajwadi Party a day earlier. Before this, when gangster Vikas Dubey was killed in a police encounter early July, Mayawati accused the Yogi Adityanath government of harassing the Brahmins in the state. On August 8, too, she referred to the incident again and accused the state government of doublespeak: “Muh mein ram, bagal mein churi (running with the hare and hunting with the hounds).”
Earlier in 2018, after the killing of Apple executive Vivek Tiwari allegedly by two policemen in Lucknow, Mayawati had said: “Atrocities against Brahmins have increased in the BJP rule.” Such statements are reminiscent of the BSP chief’s famed social engineering formula that involved wooing the Brahmin community that propelled her party to power in UP with an absolute majority in 2007.
Moreover, Brahmins in UP have also been accusing the Yogi Adityanath government of sidelining them, a sentiment that all opposition parties are eager to exploit ahead of the 2022 elections
Past polls and Brahmin candidates
The data of the past three UP Assembly elections shows that when BSP bagged 206 seats in 2007 – the party’s best-ever performance — as many as 20 of 51 Brahmin candidates that it fielded were elected to Vidhan Sabha. Ahead of that election, the party had held organisational meetings focused on Brahmins, who along with the Dalits and Muslims, helped the BSP come to power.
In 2012, when Mayawati lost to the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Akhilesh Yadav became CM, only seven of BSP’s 51 Brahmin candidates were elected. In 2017, BSP gave tickets to 52 Brahmins and only four of them could win.
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BSP’s Muslim candidates
The performance trend was similar for the Muslim candidates fielded by the BSP in the three assembly elections of 2007, 2012 and 2017. In fact, BSP had shown more trust in Muslims than Brahmins in these elections.
In 2007, BSP offered tickets to 61 Muslims, of which 29 were elected to the Assembly. In 2012, when SP tried to regain lost ground owing to the Muslim-Yadav social equation, BSP gave tickets to 84 Muslims. Only 15 of them could, however, win.
In 2107, BSP tried to dent the SP-Congress alliance by fielding 100 Muslims but only five of them triumphed.
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Brahmins over Muslims, for 2022
Ahead of the 2022 assembly polls, BSP looks more eager to woo Brahmins than Muslims. In January this year, party chief Mayawati removed Amroha MP Danish Ali from the post of legislative party leader in Lok Sabha and replaced him with Ritesh Pandey — a Brahmin — who is the Lok Sabha member from Ambedkar Nagar in UP. The BSP chief justified it as a move to maintain “social cohesion” in the party. Incidentally, as a BSP leader pointed out, the party’s leaders in both Lok Sabha (Ritsh Pandey) and Rajya Sabha (S C Mishra) are Brahmins.
While Mayawati removed Danish from the post of leader in Lok Sabha, she retained Munquad Ali as party UP state president.
BSP is finding the present situation of UP “fertile” for raising the concerns of Brahmins. The age-old battle for power between Brahmins and Thakurs is growing in the state ever since BJP came to power and Adityanath was sworn in as CM. Leaders within the BJP organisation also speak about this but in a muffled voice. The race between two upper castes communities for supremacy is the maximum in eastern UP. CM Adityanath hails from the same region.
Despite successive defeats in 2012 and 2017 assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and 2019, BSP claims to have held on to the support of its core votebank — Dalits. BSP leaders, too, claim that Brahmins feel more comfortable with Dalits than any of the backward and upper castes.
On the other hand, Muslims have always shown an inclination for the SP over any other party in UP. BSP’s past associations with the BJP and unpredictable electoral moves of Mayawati had made a section of Muslim voters wary of it. And there is a general perception that a majority of Muslim voters support the party that appears best positioned to defeat BJP. The anti-BJP sentiment in the community is likely to have intensified further after the foundation stone-laying of Ram temple in Ayodhya.
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