Despite government schemes, caste alignment holds the key to eastern UP polls

19 May 2019
To counter the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are relying on their combined vote bank of Yadavs, Muslims and Jatavs.
Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto/Getty Images
To counter the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are relying on their combined vote bank of Yadavs, Muslims and Jatavs.
Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Thirteen Lok Sabha constituencies in eastern Uttar Pradesh vote in the last phase of the ongoing polls on 19 May. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won all 13 seats in the 2014 general election, as a “Modi wave” swept aside caste equations. This year, the candidate selection of the BJP and the gathbandhan—an alliance between the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal—show that both are banking on caste arithmetic to win the polls.

The Apna Dal, a BJP ally, is contesting two of the thirteen seats—Mirzapur and Robertsgunj, and the ruling party is challenging the opposition in the remaining 11 seats. The BJP has nominated six upper-caste and three non-dominant Other Backward Class candidates in the unreserved constituencies, and one non-Jatav Dalit in the reserved constituency of Bansgaon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting from Varanasi. The social support base of the BJP consists primarily of these three communities, as reflected by the distribution of tickets.

Among the upper castes, four tickets have been given to Brahmins—in Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria and Chandauli. Ravi Kishan Shukla, a popular Bhojpuri singer and actor, is the BJP’s Brahmin candidate in Gorakhpur and the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath has been camping in the city to ensure a BJP victory. Manoj Sinha, from the upper-caste Bhumihar community, is contesting from Ghazipur, while Virendra Singh, a Thakur, is the candidate from Ballia. That the majority of the upper-caste tickets have gone to Brahmins is an indication that that the party is trying to woo the community, who are upset that party stalwarts such as Murali Manohar Joshi and Kalraj Mishra have been denied tickets. Moreover, the appointment of Adityanath, a Thakur, as chief minister had led to a rift between the party’s Thakur and Brahmin voter base.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Uttar Pradesh Samajwadi Party Bahujan Samaj Party Bharatiya Janata Party Other Backward Classes Jatavs Scheduled Castes Elections 2019
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