New Delhi: The exit of three well-known ministers and a group of legislators from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who mainly belong to sub-castes within the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category – “ignoring” their castes On the eve of elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) – questions are being raised about whether the party’s famous social engineering model will face political turmoil in the upcoming state assembly elections. The model rests on a matrix of diverse Hindu castes coming together in an electoral alliance.
The resignations of three ministers Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chouhan and Dharam Singh Saini from OBC communities came amid reports of various caste groups becoming uneasy and distant from the BJP over issues like political empowerment and lack of jobs.
In recent elections, the BJP has reaped dividends from its social engineering, which includes incorporating backward communities into its political structures and alliances. The emphasis on expanding the party’s base beyond the Hindu upper castes in the late 1980s and early 1990s was given to former general secretary of the party, K Govindacharya, but this did not last. Since the 2014 election, under Narendra Modi’s leadership, the party has forged a broad coalition of castes, all of whom are not friendly and friendly to each other; This has helped the party to increase its vote-share and remove its tag of so called upper caste formation.
In states such as Uttar Pradesh where caste is a major driver of determining political priorities, the party benefited from forming an unusual caste alliance based on Hindu identity and significantly improved its performance. From just 47 seats and 15% vote share in 2012, BJP came to power in the state with 31.45% vote share and 312 seats in 2017.
In 1991 when the Ram temple movement was at its peak and the issue lent support to the BJP, which won 221 seats in the 403-member assembly.
OBCs account for 42% of the electorate in UP, of whom Yadavs count as the support base of the Samajwadi Party (SP), accounting for 9% of the vote-share. In the last few elections, BJP’s social engineering and targeted schemes for OBCs have seen their acceptance among caste groups.
According to Lokniti-CSDS data, while 22 per cent OBCs voted for the BJP in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the number steadily increased to 34 per cent in 2014 and 44 per cent in 2019.
While the exit was no surprise, given that murmurs about a possible defection reached the party headquarters in Delhi months ago, the timing and tone of the resignations have destabilized the BJP.
OBC leaders joining the SP have challenged the BJP’s claims of being all-inclusive. Ministers of Chouhan, Saini and Maurya had spoken about the “neglect of Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed and small traders” in similar resignation letters posted on social media.
BJP leaders blame “personal reasons” such as “disagreement with the chief minister” for the break-up of ties.
Maurya, 68, a former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) stalwart, joined the BJP ahead of the 2017 elections. The party then claimed to have a foothold in the Maurya-dominated districts of eastern UP. Maurya’s clout extends to the districts of Rae Bareli, Unchahar, Shahjahanpur and Badaun and covers about 100 odd seats. His departure is expected to affect the performance of BJP in some districts.
While the BJP rubbished Maurya’s claims and accused the party of turning down the demand for a ticket for his son (his daughter is an MLA from Badaun), a militant Maurya told reporters, “Now you will know who Swami Prasad Maurya is.” Is. Wherever I live, the government will be formed. (Now they will know who Swami Prasad Maurya is. The party I will go to will form the government)”.
The party is also expected to face resentment from the Lonia-Chouhan caste, represented by Dara Singh Chouhan, with a notable presence in eastern UP’s Azamgarh and Varanasi as well. Also, this is his second term with the SP, a former BSP leader.
The differences arising between the party and the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj of OP Rajbhar are also expected to affect the BJP’s election campaign. After publicly falling out with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Rajbhar signed with the SP in 2019.
An OBC leader who honed his skills under the leadership of BSP founder Kansi Ram, Rajbhar was welcomed into the BJP ahead of the last assembly election and dominates nearly a dozen districts in eastern UP. In 2017, his party won four of the eight seats in the elections and has carved a niche for itself among castes counted as the most backward castes, including pastoral communities and landless workers.
A senior BJP leader in Delhi said there was a great deal of consensus in the party that letting Rajbhar go was “avoidable”.
No dent, says BJP
The BJP leadership, however, termed the exit from the party as a retrospective strike for fear of not getting a ticket from the party and claimed that it remains unaffected by making its mark within these diverse social groups.
“Why is it that they waited a full five years before realizing that the BJP did nothing for their castes? Why did he not raise these concerns in party forum or cabinet meeting? Siddharth Nath Singh, a minister in the UP government, said.
He had gone to challenge the claims of the government being indifferent towards OBCs and SCs. “Maurya said on record that during the tenure of this government, most mass marriages or community weddings were funded by the government. These marriages are organized for the economically weaker sections, most of whom belong to the SC, ST and OBC communities. During the tenure of this government, 2.6 crore (260 million) toilets were built, 6.7 crore (670 million) AYUSH cards were made and 43 lakh (4.3 million) houses were built for the poor. Which communities benefited the most?” Singh inquired.
BJP leaders also emphasize that the expansion of social welfare schemes has documented benefits for OBCs and other socially and economically marginalized communities, which will offset the losses caused by these departures.
“BJP has carved a niche for itself and a handful of leaders cannot influence the choices of the entire community, especially when they have benefited from government schemes. We have seen what happened to the SP-Congress alliance in the last elections.
The BJP has also pointed to its OBC-friendly credentials, citing its decision to set up a National OBC Commission with a constitutional position on the lines of the National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commissions; And the appointment of 23 OBC leaders in the UP government and 27 ministers in the Union Council of Ministers.
Why are OBC groups unhappy?
Some party leaders said that while the majority of non-Yadav OBC castes still prefer the BJP, the most vocal complaint is about the lack of jobs. While the government claims to create 4.5 lakh jobs for the youth in 5 years, there is resentment against the move to privatize enterprises. “Youth understand that reservation ends with privatization. He also feels that the government has not been fair in appointments with the mandatory 27% quota for OBCs. For example, in the teacher recruitment process, the OBCs who were hired were not even close to half the mandated figure,” said another BJP functionary.
There is also resentment over the selection of representatives of communities. “There is a section which feels that Keshav Prasad Maurya did not deserve the deputy CM’s seat and it should have been SP Maurya. Similarly, within the party there is uneasiness within the party about the CM’s softness towards his caste group (Thakur) and the Yadavs still having control over the administration, especially the lower cop,” said another functionary. Several OBC leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction that the party has chosen Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur (7% of the voters) as CM, who is stronger than the OBCs.
The public outcry from leaders like Rajbhar, Maurya and Saini is seen as an expression of the claim of smaller parties. “There are parties that represent caste groups that are not big in numbers, but still insist on greater political empowerment. They feel that the presence of a community leader at the decision-making table will ensure that they are heard. Then there is always the demand for more representation in government jobs etc,” explained a third BJP leader, also an OBC.
Smaller caste groups are wary of reducing their presence in jobs by incorporating numerically larger groups and occupying a large portion of the quota pie.
“It (fear) is based on discrimination at different levels by different groups which led to the formation of parties on the basis of caste groups. Today the non-Yadav OBCs, who have a vote base of 42%, have smaller sections such as nai (barber), badhai (carpenter), lohar (blacksmith) and darzi (tailor); All of whom are politically aware and aspirational,” said the third leader.
Political commentator, Manisha Priyam said that the political churn in the state has resumed among the OBCs. “There is a demand-side led resurgence of the poor and farmers who are impacting their livelihoods with the pandemic and rising prices. They are demanding social justice and leaving no room for political maneuvering for their leaders. Therefore, leaders are being pushed to see if they can assert themselves and expand their social base,” she said.
The other reason, Priyam said, centered around power distribution and the BSP’s quest for votes. “We have seen Jats claim (during farmers’ protests) and there has been disagreement between Thakurs and OBCs, as Rajbhar spoke openly about,” he said.
Keeping Dalits close and OBCs close
Aware of the possible consequences of a fragmented vote bank, the BJP designed a community-specific outreach, pressuring senior leaders to meet with various caste groups to address issues and combat disenchantment. Rallies and sammelans (meetings) were held where senior party leaders including union ministers interacted with the representatives of the castes.
Recently, the electoral narrative has acquired more religious significance in order to prevent separate groups from becoming segregated. A high decibel campaign around issues like demand for Ram Mandir, Mathura-Kashi Mandir has been carefully planned to influence vote bank using religious sentiments.
This appeal for a “Hindu” vote bank is also helpful in wooing Dalits, a predominantly BSP support group. The BJP is hoping that its social engineering plus will bring the vote bank (non-core voters) into its fold. The party is eyeing the 11 per cent non-Jatav Dalit vote bank.
“There is a ‘plus vote bank’ that is ready to catch on. Though we did not see the transfer of Dalit votes in 2019, the BJP will also need the support of the most economically backward, most backward people apart from Dalits,” Priyam said. said.
The third BJP leader said the perception and optics of OBC leaders going out did not reflect the mood on the ground. “There are people who do not see the Samajwadi Party as an option given its predominant bias towards Muslims. Especially in rural areas, the Yadav-Muslim alliance is itself a reason for many to choose the BJP. In the end, it is either caste or religion,” the leader said.