The caste web on Uttar Pradesh polls

Assembly polls 2017: BJP, Cong, BSP rely on backward caste votes

The caste web on Uttar Pradesh polls

 Leaders of various political parties may have been harping on development in their speeches, but elections in Uttar Pradesh have ultimately boiled down to caste calculations.

The BJP is eyeing the non-Yadav Other Backward Caste (OBC) voters, apart from Dalits and its traditional Bania (traders) voters. The saffron party has fielded a record 102 candidates from the OBC, Dalit and Vaisya communities.

Even within the OBCs, the tickets have been distributed by the BJP in accordance to their strength in the constituencies.

Keeping in mind the OBC votes, the BJP chose Keshav Prasad Maurya, a member of the backward caste, as its state unit president.

The BJP is in electoral alliance with the Apna Dal, a predominantly Patel community outfit. The Apna Dal has influence on Kurmi voters in some districts in the eastern region. The saffron party has also struck an alliance with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, an outfit of the Rajbhar (backward) community.

SP’s vote bank

The ruling Samajwadi Party is depending heavily on its traditional Yadav-Muslim vote bank. The Yadavs, who constitute around 9% of the total electorate, form the main vote base of the SP within the OBC block.

This time, however, the SP has also fielded a large number of candidates from the upper castes and other non-Yadav OBC communities.

A few days before the announcement of the election schedule, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav gave his assent to a proposal to include 17 backward castes into the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. But the proposal was stayed by the Allahabad High Court.

Akhilesh also appointed Naresh Uttam, a Kurmi, as the state unit president of the SP in a bid to make inroads into the votes of the community.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which banks heavily on Dalit votes, has fielded 106 candidates from different backward castes.

Not wanting to be left behind, the Congress has also given tickets to a large number of candidates from backward communities.

The Congress had earlier projected former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit as its chief ministerial candidate in a bid to garner support from the Brahmin community. The alliance with SP, however, forced a withdrawal.

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