×

India

BJP’s MBC Votes Face Akhilesh’s OBC Mobilisation In UP Polls 7th Phase

In 2022, as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav re-cast his net to expand his base among the non-Yadav OBCs, there is one assembly segment in Varanasi district which will test Bharatiya Janata Party’s ability to retain its grip over the backward voters of UP which have helped Modi and Yogi to clock a comfortable lead over their arch rivals even in the face of SP-BSP alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. 

With its Mandal spectrum shrinking in the last 7 years, Samajwadi Party changed its strategy to align with smaller sub-regional parties espousing the interest of small caste groups instead of going for an alliance with national parties. (Photo: ANI)

Mau, Varanasi: Varanasi is a high-profile constituency since Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to contest from here in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The shift from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh helped BJP reap rich electoral dividends in every subsequent electoral contest.

In 2022, as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav re-cast his net to expand his base among the non-Yadav OBCs, there is one assembly segment in Varanasi district which will test Bharatiya Janata Party’s ability to retain its grip over the backward voters of UP which have helped Modi and Yogi to clock a comfortable lead over their arch rivals even in the face of SP-BSP alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. 

Shivpur, on the outskirts of Varanasi has a sizable Rajbhar population. It is one of the five assembly segments in the Chandauli Lok Sabha seat. In 2017, alliance with Rajbhar’s party helped BJP win Shivpur by a comfortable margin with state minister Anil Rajbhar defeating his nearest SP candidate by over 54 thousand votes. 2022, however, has been a little different.

With its Mandal spectrum shrinking in the last 7 years, Samajwadi Party changed its strategy to align with smaller sub-regional parties espousing the interest of small caste groups instead of going for an alliance with national parties.

Om Prakash Rajbhar, the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party or SBSP chief and an estranged ally of the BJP has been the biggest mascot for the Akhilesh Yadav led SP’s concerted attempts to project itself as the leader of all the backward communities and not just the Yadavs. Donning a yellow scarf, Rajbhar was a constant companion in Akhilesh’s extended roadshows across the state in the buildup to the month-long polling. 

Rajbhars are one of the 17 Most Backward Castes with sizable population in southern-Purvanchal. These communities were once successfully mobilized by the Bahujan Samaj Party to build a formidable electoral combination with Dalits and Muslims. In the last seven years, some of these communities like Rajbhars, Nishads, Mauryas and Nonias have been mobilized by the BJP under the larger Hindu-umbrella. SP has sought to disrupt this winning combination. 

Of the 52 seats going to the polls in the last phase of UP elections, both Rajbhar and his son Arvind are in the fray. The father is trying his luck from Zahoorabad in Ghazipur district. He has pitted his son Anil from Shivpur constituency. 

SBSP has also been tactically used by the opposition to bring on board local strongmen which Samajwadi Party could not openly align with. Mukhtar Ansari’s son Abbas Ansari is contesting on SBSP’s symbol from Mau while his cousin is fighting on SP ticket from adjoining Mohammadabad. 

SP has also tried to bring on board some other caste groups as well. Nonia-Chauhans have pockets of influence in Mau-Ghazipur belt. Dara Singh Chauhan, minister in the Yogi government who resigned to join SP on the eve of the polls is trying his luck this time around from Ghosi as SP candidate. 

Chauhan contested his last elections from the adjoining Madhuban seat from where BJP has given ticket to Bihar governor Phagu Chauhan’s son Ramvilas Chauhan. SP has also allocated some seats in this phase to the Apna Dal faction led by union minister Anupriya Patel’s mother Krishna Patel. 

Kurmis, a backward caste group which Apna Dal claims to represent, has pockets of influence south of Varanasi- especially Mirzapur district. Chunar, for instance, has been left for the Krishna Patel’s party.

In the 2017 assembly polls, BJP won 29 seats out of the 52 seats for which votes would be cast on Monday while its ally Anupriya Patel’s party was victorious in three. Opposition registered its best performance in this phase winning 17 seats- 11 to SP and 6 to BSP.

ALSO READ: Will Not Leave UP Regardless Of Poll Results: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra