Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Set to take charge of BJP’s bid to defend political turf in Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah faces an immediate task of arresting the drift of non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
While the BJP leadership continues to watch caste churning in UP ahead of Assembly elections early next year, there’s a growing concern within the party that the smaller castes which helped them beat Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party in the elections since 2014 could be moving away.
Party leaders believe that BJP may have to aggressively woo the likes of Patels, Nishads, Mauryas, Rajbhars and others to boost its prospects.
Shah has a task on hand, with the smaller political parties specifically catering to the political aspirations of such castes asserting their strength in the run-up to the polls.
Success of their counterparts in Bihar last year, most significantly of the Vikassheel Insan Party led by Mukesh Sahini, has seemingly emboldened their bargaining positions.
Shah is credited within the BJP for crafting a grand social engineering of the non-Yadav OBCs along with the upper castes to scale up the electoral base of the party in the state known for identity politics since 1990s.
“After Shah was appointed the BJP in-charge for UP in 2013, he had set out to work on the numerical strength of the non-Yadav OBCs to beat the social engineering of the BSP and SP. But some of such smaller castes numbering up to 10,000-20,000 in each assembly constituency in UP are nursing grievances against BJP, which has to be addressed by the party urgently,” said a senior BJP functionary, who added that the party will need to do more than making Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal a minister in the Central government.
The BJP’s challenge is also likely to be more onerous in the face of the willingness of SP to be more accommodative to parties which represent specific caste groups.
With the likelihood of alliances against BJP, it may have to field a large number of candidates from the non-Yadav OBC space to promote alternative leadership.
As political parties compete to woo Brahmins through outreach programmes ahead of the 2022 assembly polls, supporters of the Samajwadi Party have gone a step further.
In Ballia on Monday, they held a “Shiv Sevak Sammelan” aimed at a section among the Brahmins — the influential Goswami community.
The event was held under the banner of the “Goswami Samaj” at the local Town Hall, where Arvind Giri, the state president of Samajwadi Party Yuvjan Sabha, accused the BJP government of “neglect and oppression” of the community.
He said similar conventions will be held all over the state to unite the Goswamis in favour of the SP ahead of the assembly elections early next year.
On posters put up at the convention site, Lord Shiva shared space with SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and party president Akhilesh Yadav.
Former minister Narad Rai attended the meeting.
Giri said there are about 10 sub-castes among the Goswamis and efforts will be made to unite them through these events.
He claimed that the Goswamis have a significant population in nearly 15 districts where they could influence the election outcome.
Later, UP minister Anand Swaroop Shukla lashed out at the SP, saying it is out to divide the Hindu `samaj’ in the name of caste through such conventions.
“Why does the Samajwadi Party not organise separate sammelans of Shias and Sunnis among of the Muslims,” he said.
He also asked if any top SP leader has been seen offering ‘jalabhishek’ at Kashi Vishwanath, Baijnath or Pashupatinath temples.
The minister claimed that the entire Hindu samaj is united in support of the BJP and nobody will succeed in dividing it in the name of caste.
The BJP recently launched its “prabuddh varg” (intellectual community) “sammelans”, widely seen as events to reach out to the Brahmin community.
Mayawati’s Dalit-centric Bahujan Samaj Party too has begun a similar exercise.
(With PTI Inputs)