NEW DELHI: As the Samajwadi party accuses the BJP of being anti-backward castes, the ruling party has rolled out its own ‘mandal’ policy to counter the narrative by giving the group maximum representation in its first list of 107 candidates for Uttar Pradesh assembly polls while betting heavily on Jats to counter SP-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance.
As many as 44 OBC names, including 16 Jats, are on the list, followed by 43 upper castes and 19 scheduled castes, sources said, with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is the BJP’s official for state polls, pointing out that his party has also fielded Dalits from unreserved seats.
Although there is no official word about it from BJP but its decision not to send Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Ayodhya as widely speculated but from Gorakhpur may have something to do with its caution against rivals’ efforts to frame the polls as a battle between ‘mandal’ and ‘kamandal’.
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The BJP has been steadfast in its pursuit of Hindutva politics under Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh but has also worked to bring large numbers of other backward classes and Dalits under its fold with welfare measures of the Modi government in the Center and giving them political representation.
Faced with the repeated rout of the BJP in successive polls, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav managed to poach a number of ruling party OBC leaders, including Swami Prasad Maurya, in his efforts to broaden the social base. of his party beyond the traditional Muslim vote bank and Yadav to take this time.
Maurya and a number of OBC leaders have accused the BJP of working against the interests of backward castes and Dalits. Pradhan also dwelt at length on the large number of poor households benefiting from the BJP government’s social programs to build houses, provide cooking gas connections and health insurance.
He also highlighted his “best” record on the public order and anti-corruption fronts.
Jats may have been at the forefront of farmers’ agitation against the three controversial Farm Bills, now repealed by the Modi government, but the list says the BJP is hoping to get their votes in the west. UP, the region where the agrarian community is concentrated. .
The SP-RLD alliance has also aligned a number of Muslims in the region, and the BJP appears to be banking on the polarization of Jat votes as in the 2017 polls to maintain its dominance. The RLD led by Jayant Chaudhary also hopes to grab a large share of the Jat votes.
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The BJP did not field a single Muslim on its first list. The first list of the BJP also has seven, six and five candidates from the Gurjar, Lodh and Saini castes and also has representatives from several other backward castes.
The Jatavs, seen as traditional voters of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj party, received 13 nominations out of the total 19 SC candidates in the BJP’s top slate. As one wonders if the BSP has lost its appeal as the SP emerges as the main challenger to the BJP, the saffron party hopes that a piece of Jatavs might gravitate around it.
Among the 43 candidates from the upper castes, 18 Thakurs and 10 Brahmins are in the first list of the BJP, followed by eight from the merchant classes.