BJP plays caste card well

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Despite focus on development and promises of equity based welfare and social upliftment measures in its commitment to the people of the state, there had been a distinct electoral strategy in operation pursued by the BJP core management team in Uttar Pradesh at micro level. Based on deep understanding of caste realities it was aimed at piercing the BSP’s strong Dalit and the Samajwadi Party’s Backward Caste vote bank. The success of its caste understanding could be gaged from the fact that its regional allies like Apna Dal won nine seats which were more than that of Congress party.

Finally, it was not magic but just micro planning of caste combinations that allowed BJP to repeat its 2014 performance. In the process Congress party and regional heavyweights like Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party were largely wiped out from the political scene.

The most ambitious, but less known, is the BJP’s ‘division of caste’‎ strategy. It was designed to fragment sizeable segment of the non-Jatav Dalit voters from the fold of BSP. Similarly, when addressing the Backward Caste electorate, the BJP had strategised to lure away the non-Yadav Backward Castes. It was also reflected in the choice of candidates fielded by the party.

In a shrewd political exercise to dismantle Dalit consolidation under BSP fold, BJP gave 65 tickets to non-Jatav Dalit community out of 87 reserved constituencies. It worked and BJP won 68 seats from the reserved constituencies. Out of around 25% Dalit votes in UP, non-Jatavs make around 14% vote share.

The party mobilized support from upper castes, non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav Castes.

Similarly, out of around 25% strong Backward Caste population, BJP targeted the approximately 15% non-Yadav segment. It comes as no surprise then that BJP and its allies together had given tickets to 134 Backward Caste candidates, of whom only nine were Yadavs, from them six won the elections.

One of the backroom strategists involved in the planning and execution of BJP’s well-researched action plan revealed, “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 had formulated a clear strategy to target the remaining Dalits and Backwards Castes. The target area for the BJP among Dalits was to placard the support from the Pasi, Dhobi and Khatik castes. These three castes together were given 39 tickets. The party had also given representation to around 11 other non-Jatav Dalit castes in ticket distribution.

Among the Backward Castes, the BJP lured major non-Yadav castes like Maurya, Kurmi, Lodh and Jats. With 29 tickets going to Kurmi candidates and 24 to Mauryas (including Kushwaha, Shakya and Saini), 20 tickets were given to candidates from Lodh community and 15 to Jats.

Despite showcasing inclusive development initiatives and highlighting Ujjwala scheme to provide free LPG connection to poor sections of society parallel efforts were in full swing to win over all castes. Sources revealed, “Out of UP›s electorate, there are 10% Yadavs, 11% Jatav’s and 17% Muslim votes. This 38% of vote share was more or less out of the reach for the BJP. Hence the party mobilized support from upper castes, non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav Backward Castes. With around 25% upper caste population, this together made around 55% of the voters.

A researcher who conducted caste study in U P pointed out, “For the party traditionally dominated and supported by upper castes, accommodating so many Backward Caste candidates was not easy exercise. Despite this, 184 tickets have gone to candidates from upper castes. Party fielded 66 Brahmins faces and 42 of them recorded victory, similarly out of 67 Rajputs 60 won and 17 out of 28 won election from the Vaishya community.”

BJP›s top leadership expected that upper caste votes that had traditionally been with them would continue to support BJP. Their anticipation proved correct and non-Jatav Dalits and Backward Caste came under its roof and its expected 30 per cent vote share rose to 39.7 percent.

For BJP, the challenge was to raise its vote share as compared to a mere 15% in 2012 Assembly polls. Their collective efforts worked and BJP won 312 seats in 2017 elections whereas in 2012 they had won just 47 seats.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the ‘Modi Wave’ helped it scale caste boundaries and get a massive 42.63% vote share. Now after success of micro-caste formula, the BJP hopes are at an all-time high for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
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