In Phase 4 And Beyond, Gathbandhan Story to be Written by BJP's Counter Consolidation of Castes
Unlike the first three phases, in the constituencies going to polls in the fourth phase and many out the remaining 41 seats, it will be the non-Yadav/OBCs and non-Jatav/Dalits who will dominate the scenario.
File photo of SP president Akhilesh Yadav, BSP supremo Mayawati and RLD chief Ajit Singh at a joint rally in Uttar Pradesh.
New Delhi: As the election gradually moves eastward in the most decisive state of Uttar Pradesh, there are new political equations which can be of a major influence in the keenly contested electoral battle.
Unlike the first three phases where the Chamar-Jatav Dalit factor, Jat phenomenon or the Yadav/OBC angle along with Muslim voters had played the decisive role in shaping the contest, in the 13 constituencies going to polls in the fourth phase on April 29 and many out the remaining 41 seats from phases five to seven, it will be the non-Yadav/OBCs and non-Jatav/Dalits who will dominate the scenario.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) certainly hopes of a counter-polarisation of these castes against the SP-BSP’S consolidation of the pre-dominantly Yadav-Chamar-Muslim votes, the grand alliance hopes of being able to break the glass ceiling in the path of a larger backward-Dalit bonhomie.
This, however, just might be a bit challenging task keeping past electoral records in mind and the caste-based intense identity politics prevalent in the state.
The seats to see voting on Monday include four reserved constituencies of Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Mishrikh and Etawah.
In Etawah, the BJP’s nominee is the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and incumbent Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria.
The other constituencies are Kheri, Unnao, Farukhabad, Kanpur, Kannauj, Akbarpur, Jalaun, Hamirpur and Jhansi.
In Kannauj, it is the prestige battle for the alliance as Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s wife is in the race to retain the seat.
In Farukhabad and Kanpur, the Congress is pinning its hopes on former Union minsters Salman Khurshid and Sriprakash Jaiswal.
From Unnao, BJP’s controversy man Sakshi Maharaj is trying to retain his seat.
An analysis of caste demography and previous electoral result of many of these seats suggests that for the alliance to succeed, both the SP and BSP would have to move beyond their traditional caste support base.
The ‘gathbandhan’ story from here on will largely be written on the basis of the parties’ capability to do so.
In most of the seats, neither the Yadavs dominate the backward caste voter presence nor the Chamars rule the Dalit demography.
For example, in Unnao, Yadavs/Ahirs constitute only 8% of the total OBC voters. Here, Mauryas, Kushwahas and Shakyas, among the OBCs, comprise about 8% voters, while the other significant backward caste is that of Kishan-Lodhi. These communities make up for about 7% of the total OBC voters.
Similarly, of the 23% Dalit voters, the Pasi-Bahelias dominate the chart (around 14%). Chamars have about 7% voters, Muslims are around 10%, while upper caste Hindus comprise about 22% of the lectorate.
While BJP’S Sakshi Maharaj is a Lodh, the SP has fielded a Brahmin — Arun Shankar Shukla.
The Congress’s Anu Tandon also belongs to an upper caste. In the 2014 election, Maharaj had secured 43.17% votes, while SP-BSP together had polled only about 34 % votes.
Even in 2009, when the Congress had won the seat, the SP-BSP’s combined vote-share was almost the same — about 35%.
If the alliance succeeds in its bid to make a dent in the BJP’s upper caste vote-bank, it can hope of a good show keeping the alliance’s strength in mind.
In Akbarpur, Kheri, Farukhabad, Jhansi and Hamirpur constituencies, as well, it’s the non-Yadav backward castes and non-Jatav/Dalits who are present in strong numbers.
In Akbarpur, Yadavs are only 7% of the total 21% OBC voters, while Chamars comprise 14% of the total 30% Dalit voters.
The other Dalit castes with significant presence here are Pasi, Bahelia and Kori. Another 17% of the total voters are also from the most-backward caste (MBC)s.
In Kheri, Yadav’s have a insignificant presence out of the 27% OBCs. Kurmis and Patels dominate the demography here with about 12% voter presence.
Mauryas, Kushwahas, Sanis and Shakyas constitute another 7%. The SP is, therefore, banking on Purvi Verma, a Kurmi, as a candidate from here.
Of the 27% Dalit voters, Pasis supersede Chamars, while there are about 18% Muslims.
While the Congress has given to ticket to former MP Jafar Ali Naqvi, the BJP is yet again banking on a Brahmin, Ajay kumar Mishra. The alliance’s challenge here is also to ensure non-division of Muslim votes
In Farukhabad again, Yadavs are only 10 % of the total 40% OBC voters. Muslims are about 10%. Chamars, however, have an edge here, being about 11% of the total 19% Dalit voters. The Mayawati-led BSP has fielded an upper caste candidate, Manoj Agarwal, against the BJP’S Mukesh Rajput, an OBC, and Congress’ Salman Khurshid. The BSP is probably hoping for a dent in the BJP’s upper caste vote-bank.
In Jhansi, Yadavs are only about 6% of the total 24% OBC voters. In neighbouring Hamirpur, they are only 5% of total 26% backward caste voters. While Chamars constitute almost half of total the 24% Dalit voters, it’s to be seen if the other prominent Dalit castes here, like the Koris and Raikawars will also be inclined towards the ‘gathbandhan’.
While the SP has fielded Shyam Sunder Singh Yadav here, in Hamirpur, the BSP’s Daleep Kumar Singh is in fray. Here, Chamars alone constitute about 13% of the total Dalit voters.
In the lone urban seat of Kanpur, where the Congress’ Sri Prakash Jaiswal seems to be a strong contender, the BJP has also fielded a Brahmin, Satyadev Pachauri, who, at present, is a minister in the UP cabinet.
The 2004 Lok Sabha election had seen a similar contest between Pachauri and Jaiswal and which the latter won by a slender margin.
Jaiswal had got 34.12% votes, while Pachauri secured 33.21% votes. In 2009, the seat was again won by Jaiswal and the BJP contender was a runner-up. In 2014, however, amid the ‘Modi wave’ the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi defeated Jaiswal.
Neither the SP nor the BSP had ever won this seat. This time, the SP has fielded a backward caste leader, a Nishad, Ram Kumar from here.
While the upper caste vote at about 28% is likely to get divided between the BJP and the Congress, the 22% Dalit vote is dominated by Balmikis (10%). Traditionally, they had been more inclined towards the BJP.
OBC voters constitute about 11% votes, the maximum of them being from the Maurya, Kushwaha and Shakya communities.
Muslims alone are around 22% of the total voters. With the fight expected to be between the BJP and the Congress, the possibility of any major division is the minority vote-bank is less. A lot will, therefore, depend on voting choices of Dalit and OBC voters.
In the prestige seat of Kannauj, the alliance seems to be in a comfortable position. The SP’S Dimple Yadav had won the seat in 2014, though the BJP’S Subrat Pathak was defeated by a narrow margin. Dimple had garnered 43.89% vote, while Pathak secured 42.11% votes. The BSP had polled about 12% votes.
Hence, following an alliance with the BSP, Dimple looks much better positioned as compared to 2014. However, not ready to take any chances, Mayawati and Akhilesh have held a joint rally here.
While Yadavs constitute about 10% of the total 32% voters, Chamars are about 15% of total Dalit voters. Upper caste voters are estimated to be about 21%, Muslims 9% and most backward caste (MBC)s about 15%.
The BJP is eying the consolidation of the upper caste, MBC and non-Yadav votes. The importance of the seat the seat can be gauged from the fact that on the last day of campaigning on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Kannauj.
In Etawah, which is also the home turf of Akhilesh Yadav, the alliance seems to be on a strong wicket. Though the BJP won the seat in 2014, the alliance’s combined vote share was slightly above that of the BJP.
While Chamars and Yadavs dominate the voter demography here, a lot will depend on Shivpal factor, Akhilesh’s estranged uncle, who has fielded Shambhu Dayal Dohre as a candidate.
The BJP is hoping for a counter-consolidation against the alliance, as well as, Shivpal Yadav to make a dent in the SP’s core Yadav vote-bank.
In Shahjahanpur, the BJP had secured 46.45% votes in 2014. However, the alliance’s joint vote share stands at about 47%.
The saffron party has therefore changed its candidate here. Yadavs and Chamars don’t dominate their caste segments in this constituency. Muslims are about 17%, upper castes about 19%, while OBCs are at 32% with Kisan-Lodhi and Mauarya-Kushwaha-Shakya-Saini communities playing a dominating role.
In both Mishrikh and Hardoi reserved seats, the ‘gathbandhan’ seems to be in much stronger space. In the last general election in Mishrikh, the BJP had won 41.33% votes, the SP-BSP’s joint vote count stood at about 53%. In Hardoi, this figure was above 57% as compared to BJP’s 37% votes.
The Pasis (15) and Chamars (13%) are dominant Dalit voters in Mishrikh. The BJP has, therefore, fielded a Pasi, Ashok Rawat, as its candidate, while the BSP’s Neelu Satyarthi is a Chamar by caste. Naturally, the BJP is pinning hopes on the non-Chamar Dalit dynamics.
In Hardoi, both the BJP and BSP have given ticket to Pasi leaders. The BJP has replaced its sitting MP with Jai Prakash, while the BSP is banking on Usha Verma.
The alliance’s strategy is based on assumption of continued support from about 11% Chamar voters and making a dent in 14% Pasi voters through a candidate from the same caste.
The BJP has a challenge to fight it. It can again hope of doing it on basis of any “counter-polarisation” if it exists.
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