You sure are hearing a lot about the strategies political parties are chalking out on how exactly they intend to woo Dalits, OBCs and Muslims in their respective folds. But one community that every political party is leaving no stone unturned to woo is that of the Brahmins, who comprise a considerable 10 per cent in Uttar Pradesh.
Just how sensitive and serious the parties are about the "catalyst" Brahmin vote-bank in UP can be gauged by the following incident.
On June 14, Sanjay Bharti, a Dalit, Vidhan Sabha president and a member of core cadre of the Bahujan Samaj Party was expelled from the party. His crime? He posted some disparaging remarks against Brahmins on his Facebook account.
In BSP hierarchy, a Vidhan Sabha president is considered above the local MLA or candidate and he reports directly to the party chief. He might have escaped unscathed had the elections in UP not been around the corner.
|Dalit diva Mayawati too is eyeing the Brahmin vote bank to clinch UP 2017.|
This action, coming from the same Mayawati who started her political career with the once famous BSP slogan - "Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro jute chaar", to her 2007 slogan - "Brahmin shankh bajayega, haanthi badta jayega", is the smoking gun acknowledgement of just how important are the Brahmin votes in the make or break UP elections. As a catalyst in the politics of India's most populous state, the significance of Brahmin votes cannot be overstated.
Just how important the role that Brahmins play in Uttar Pradesh's turbulent politics can be gauged from the fact that even in 2007, when the BSP romped home with a handsome majority, Mayawati had given tickets to 89 Brahmin candidates.
In 2012, BSP fielded 74 Brahmin candidates and in 2017, about 50 Brahmins are getting tickets on the elephant symbol. The figures are also a clear indicator of the weight the BSP attaches to this crucial vote-bank and that is why they are not taking any chances.
But is the BSP the only party which has been wooing the Brahmins on and off? And is the Brahmins' demographic percentage big enough to play such a decisive role? The answer is yes.
Every major political party is trying its level best to court them. The reason is their ability to influence the public discourse and create a favourable impression among other related demographic.
|Strategist Prashant Kishor has advised the Congress to refocus on lost Brahmin vote bank.|
When Prashant Kishor was hired by Congress to revive its political fortunes both in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, he was smart enough to proclaim at the word go that if the Congress wanted to win elections (which meant to substantially shore up their seat numbers) they would have to tap the Brahmin swing vote.
The idea behind this stratagem is to revisit the time when Brahmins were the core vote bank of the Congress. Later on, they were weaned away by the BJP and many Congress members say that this was one of the key reasons why the grand old party has been out of power in UP for 27 years at a stretch.
It goes without saying that whenever elections are around the corner, parties like SP, BSP and BJP hold Brahmin sammelans, especially in eastern UP, where in many constituencies Brahmins comprise around 20 per cent of the electorate.
For many, by refocusing on Brahmin votes, Congress is getting its priorities right after long. One senior Congress leader said that if the party played its cards properly, they would be able to get their core constituency back in its fold.
He recalls the electoral outcome of 2009 Lok Sabha polls when Brahmins swung the Congress way in several constituency, landing it a decent 23 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, which was an extremely unexpected result. Along with Andhra Pradesh, it was the positive swing in Uttar Pradesh that gave the Congress a surge of seats in 2009.
In 2007, it was Mayawati who grabbed the Brahmin vote share, but in 2012, it was Akhilesh's turn to use Brahmins as a catalyst to not only garner more votes but also to capture the narrative. This time also, Samajwadi Party is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that it reaps the caste calculus in exactly same way in 2012.
|Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and LK Advani at the recently held BJP National Executive in Allahabad.|
The BJP, which had Brahmins in their kitty for a long time, is experiencing a perceptible decline in the vote share over the years. The party is also aware just how fragile caste calculations and egos are in UP, and that is why it is wooing Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs in a big way. However, it is also downplaying the Dalit angle in upper caste dominated areas. To strike a perfect balance, while they have made Keshav Prasad Maurya the UP BJP chief, most of the names which are doing the rumour rounds as possible CM candidates are from the upper castes.
A UP BJP leader also said that more often than not, the Brahmins and other upper caste voters have become highly individualistic. More than rooting en bloc for the parties of their caste preference, they would like to see their own candidates installed in the Assembly, and more so if the party is in power. The fact that BJP in UP has no Brahmin leader of big stature has also resulted in the decline of vote share of the BJP.
Hence, the swing now is more bent towards power than plain caste equations.
Though BJP is yet to unravel its cards and SP is yet to declare its full list, it is clear that Brahmins are the road to full majority in Uttar Pradesh.