Narendra Modi-led BJP has broken through UP's caste web

Narendra Modi-led BJP has broken through UP's caste web

Narendra Modi-led BJP has broken through UP's caste web

Opinion polls had predicted a good performance by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha in the general elections but the regional satraps, with their so-called vice-like grip on their respective castes, were least worried.

 They were under the impression that they would be able to counter the ‘Modi wave’ with the help of their ‘loyal vote bank’ which had never deserted them in the past polls.

How were they proved hopelessly wrong? The saffron party, led by prime minister Narendra Modi, not only brought its old vote bank back to its fold, it also appeared to have broken through UP’s complicated ‘caste web’ reducing the powerful regional satraps like Samajwadi Party (SP), BSP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to non entities.Political observers also attribute the astonishing BJP victory in UP to the support to Modi from all sections of the society though they also feel that the worsening law and order situation in the state was a contributing factor as well.

The SP could win barely five seats, including two by its supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Incidentally, barring Mulayam family members none from his party could win. BJP’s remarkable performance in the eastern region, where Yadavs (the caste to which Mulayam belongs) form a sizable chunk among the electorate, the SP could register its presence only in one seat.

SP’s defeat in seats like Ghazipur, Chandauli, Deoria, Ghosi, Faizabad, Ballia, Bhadohi, Jaunpur, where yadavs and Muslims had always formed a winning combination for the party, clearly signal that a sizable section of the yadav community may have voted for the BJP. Even in Azamgarh from where Mulayam managed to scrape through by a small margin, a large number of yadavs appeared to have voted for the BJP nominee, who also happened to be a yadav.

Similarly, in the western and central regions too the yadavs did not appear to have supported Mulayam’s party completely. Barring Mainpuri, Firozabad and Kannauj, the community seemed to have extended support to the saffron party.  That the yadavs deserted the SP, at least to some extent, is also established by the fact that in many seats, where the community had a sizable presence, the SP finished a poor third behind the BSP.

“It is very clear by the election results that Mulayam is losing grip over yadavs in the state… the younger generation of the community is no longer inclined to support Mulayam only because he was from their caste,” said Prof Dinesh Kumar, a former faculty at University of Lucknow.

SP’s yadav leaders also, though reluctantly, admit that the party had been ‘done in’ by their own castemen. “It means that we can no longer depend on them for win in the polls,’’ said a senior SP leader.

The biggest humiliation

The BJP also seems to have made a dent into the dalit vote bank of the BSP supremo Mayawati. The saffron party made a clean sweep of the reserved seats decimating the BSP completely. Mayawati suffered the biggest humiliation of her life when her party failed to open its account in the state. The BSP, which had 19 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha from UP, suffered drubbing even its dalit bastions.

“It seems that the brahmins did support the BSP in the polls and a section of dalits, especially, the non-jatavs, also shifted toward the BJP... We can not afford to allow any to make a dent into our main vote bank,” said a senior BSP leader, while speaking to Deccan Herald.

He said that the party needed to now focus on the 2017 assembly polls in the state and make all out efforts to bring back the dalits to the party fold. In fact Mayawati was so shocked by the desertion of the dalits that she decided to discard the social engineering formula and signaled return to the ‘dalit-backward agenda’ in an apparent bid to revive the party in the state.

It was ‘social engineering’ that had catapulted the BSP to power in 2007 assembly polls in the state. After the debacle in the 2012 assembly elections, Mayawati had given the new slogan of ‘sarvajan hitay, sarvajan sukhay’ (interest and development of all). The same was evident when the BSP released its new list of coordinators. The new list had a large number of dalits and members of most backward communities. Similarly, dalits and most backwards have also found place in large numbers in the list of the newly appointed district unit presidents of the party.

Another indication that Modi was able to break the shackles of castes in the western UP was the shift of the jat votes towards the saffron party deserting the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the party, which till the other day had complete sway over them. The RLD, which had an electoral alliance with the Congress, had fielded its candidates in eight seats, mainly in the western region with large presence of the powerful and dominant jat community, RLD’s traditional vote bank. 

RLD chief Ajit Singh finished a poor third at Baghpat, considered to be his home turf and jat stronghold. He could not even take lead in Chaprauli assembly segment, which had been won by RLD barely two years back with a thumping margin. Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhary, who was in the fray from the jat dominated Mathura Lok Sabha seat, was humiliated by BJP.

Political observers opine that the 2014 polls may have signalled a significant churning in UP politics, till now dominated by caste factors and significantly reduced the strength of the caste based regional satraps.