A tough task awaits whoever the BJP will select to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The chosen one will have to handle the most diverse set of MLAs the state has ever had, and prevent any conflict between elected leaders from the upper-caste and Other Backward Caste (OBC sections, like the one that had proved disastrous for the party in the 1990s.
This time, BJP has 101 MLAs who belong to Backward Castes, the party’s largest number of OBC MLAs ever. Meanwhile, its 140 upper-caste MLAs include 58 Brahmins, 55 Kshatriyas, 19 Vaishyas, four Punjabis and four Kayasthas. Balancing the ambitions of Brahmins and Kshatriyas could be another possible challenge for the new chief minister.
The party has 69 Dalit, one tribal and one Sikh MLAs. While it had fielded 177 upper caste candidates, its OBC nominees were 128.
According to party sources, one of the prominent reasons for the implosion of the BJP by 2000 despite a robust start in the early 1990s on the back of the Ram Mandir movement, was increasing tensions between the party’s OBC and upper caste leaders. Kalyan Singh, who was the OBC face of the party in the early 1990s, had been involved in a constant power tussle with upper-caste leaders like Rajnath Singh until he exited the party, triggering a decline.
The support of OBC groups, especially from non-Yadav backward castes, is said to have been instrumental in the rise of BJP in Uttar Pradesh and its unprecedented performances in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and this year’s Assembly elections.
“The caste equations need to be handled very cautiously. This is the first election when BJP has got overwhelming support from the backward castes. Any indication that the party is not giving respect to the backward castes would be harmful to it. The party will have to keep this in mind while selecting the chief minister and ministers,” said an OBC leader from BJP.
Sources said the selection of UP’s next chief minister is taking time as party leaders are gauging both outcomes of selecting someone from the upper caste or the OBC community.
The BJP not only inducted several OBC leaders from other parties in the run-up to elections, it also promoted its OBC faces, with union minister Uma Bharti and state president Keshav Prasad Maurya becoming two of the four faces that adorned the party’s campaign material.
“It is going to be tough for the party now. If OBC leaders are not given importance now, the message would be that they were only used during the campaign to get votes,” the OBC leader added.