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Non-Jatav Dalits and Non-Yadav Backward Castes Become BJP's Key Focus

‎Amidst the clarion call for vikas (development) and freedom from ‘goonda raj’, there is a very different electoral strategy at work for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. A strategy which addresses the caste realities and aims at penetrating the BSP's strong Dalit and the Samajwadi Party's Backward Caste vote bank.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:February 7, 2017, 7:33 PM IST
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Non-Jatav Dalits and Non-Yadav Backward Castes Become BJP's Key Focus
BJP National President Amit Shah with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP'S candidate from Noida Pankaj Singh, BJP leader Mahesh Sharma and party leraders at an election rally in Noida Sector 43 on Feb 5, 2017. (PTI Photo)
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Lucknow: ‎Amidst the clarion call for vikas (development) and freedom from ‘goonda raj’, there is a very different electoral strategy at work for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. A strategy which addresses the caste realities and aims at penetrating the BSP's strong Dalit and the Samajwadi Party's Backward Caste vote bank.

After all, it is on the basis of caste calculations that the BJP hopes to repeat its 2014 success and stage a strong battle against regional heavyweights Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, the latter further strengthened with the Congress coming on board.

The most ambitious, but less discussed, is the BJP's 'division of caste'‎ strategy. Aimed at chipping off sizeable segment of the non-Jatav Dalit vote bank is the party's strategy against the BSP. Similarly, when addressing the Backward Caste electorate, the BJP has strategised to lure away the non-Yadav Backward Castes. A reflection of the strategy can clearly be seen in the choice of candidates by the party.

Out of 85 reserved constituencies, the BJP, in a clever move, has given 65 tickets to non-Jatav Dalits. The idea is to focus more on Dalit communities that are not that strongly attached to the BSP. Out of around 25% Dalit votes in UP, non-Jatavs make around 14%.

Similarly, out of around 25% strong Backward Caste population, the BJP is eyeing the approximately 15% non-Yadav segment. It comes as no surprise then that BJP and its allies together have given tickets to 134 Backward Caste candidates, of whom only nine are Yadavs.

A senior functionary of the BJP, who is involved in the planning and execution of backroom strategies, says, “Jatavs among Dalits continue to be firmly behind Mayawati. Similarly, Yadavs, more or less, continue to be with Akhilesh Yadav and his party. Hence, the BJP has devised a clear strategy to target leftover Dalits and Backwards Castes. ‎The target area for the BJP among Dalits seems to be the Pasi, Dhobi and Khatik castes. These three castes together have got 39 tickets. The party has also given representation to around 11 other non-Jatav Dalit castes in ticket distribution.

Among the Backward Castes, the BJP is most hopeful of getting support among major non-Yadav castes like Kurmi, Maurya, Lodh and Jats. With 29 tickets going to Kurmi candidates and 24 to Mauryas (including Kushwaha, Shakya and Saini), 20 tickets have been given to candidates from Lodh community and 15 to Jats.

A senior leader of the party, who did not wish to be named, accepts the caste calculations. He says, “Out of UP's electorate, there are 10% Yadavs, 11% Jatav‎s and 17% Muslim votes. This 38% of vote share is more or less out of the reach for the BJP. Hence, for the BJP, the target hunting ground is ‎upper castes, non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav Backwards Castes. With an estimated 25% upper caste population, this together makes around‎ 55% of the voters.

A strategist for the BJP, who had been instrumental in generating this caste study, says, “For the party traditionally dominated and supported by upper castes, accommodating so many Backward Caste candidates was not an easy exercise. Despite this, 184 tickets have gone to candidates from upper castes. Out of them, only 66 were given to Brahmins, 67 to Rajputs and 28 to the Vaishya community.”

The understanding within the BJP's top leadership is that upper caste votes that have traditionally been with the BJP should continue‎ to support it in this election. If the Dalit and Backward Caste strategy pays dividends, the party hopes to easily cross the 30% vote share mark.

The party's state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak, however, denies that pure caste calculations were behind the ticket distribution.

“Our party aims at ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. We are committed to take forward people from all castes and religion. The candidates have been selected on the basis of merit and winnability.”

For the BJP, the challenge is to raise its vote share as compared to a mere 14% in 2012 Assembly polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the ‘Modi Wave’ helped it scale caste boundaries and get a massive 42% vote share. Now, through micro-caste planning, the BJP hopes to continue its new found penetration across caste fault lines and retain its Lok Sabha vote share in the 2017 UP polls.

The question now is whose caste calculation will actually work. Will the BJP's micro-caste planning work against the BSP's strong Dalit-Muslim formula? Or will the SP-Congress's predominantly Yadav-Muslim formula have the biggest impact? Having played their subtle caste cards on the ground, politicians continue to appeal in the name of development, law and order and clean governance from the stage.

(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat of the state Assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you put on the psephologist's hat. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections. Elections = News18)
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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