Caste politics

UP civic polls: Spooked by disquiet of Brahmins and Baniyas, BJP gives them bulk of mayoral tickets

Brahmins are reportedly upset with Adityanath’s alleged bias towards Thakurs while Baniyas are smarting from the effects of demonetisation and GST.

Growing disquiet among Baniyas and Brahmins has prompted the Bharatiya Janata Party to try to assuage members of these groups by giving them tickets to key positions in this month’s elections to 16 municipal corporations in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP on Saturday and Sunday declared mayoral candidates for 14 civic bodies. Of them, eight are Banias and three are Brahmins.

Brahmins are said to be upset with the BJP because Chief Minister Adityanath is seen to be favouring Thakurs in government appointments. Adityanath himself is a member of the Thakur community. Members of the Baniya trading community, for their part, are smarting from the Narendra Modi government’s decision in November to demonetise high-value currency notes and the roll-out in July of the Goods and Services Tax, a single nationwide tax that subsumed all state and Central levies.

These two communities form the saffron party’s core voter base in North India. In Uttar Pradesh, Brahmins are said to constitute 11% of the state’s population and Baniyas around 2%. In fact, until Prime Minister Narendra Modi widened the BJP’s social base in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the organisation was referred to as a “Baniya-Brahmin party”.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s parent organisation, played a central role in the decisions about distribution of tickets. Sangh leaders admitted off the record that the organisation had been forced to step in to redress the grievances of the disgruntled communities.

‘A gesture to show we care’

“The Sangh is aware how vital its bond with Baniyas and Brahmins is,” said a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader, who did not want to be identified. “The growing unrest among these castes because of steps taken by BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh made it necessary for the RSS to intervene and try to placate them.”

Another Sangh member, who is also a small businessman, said, “Most of the traders and small businessmen have been severely hit by the manner in which demonetisation was done and GST was implemented by the BJP government at the Centre. They cannot live by loyalty to the Sangh alone. They have to run their families too. Giving them representation is a small gesture to make them feel that we indeed care for them. Winning them back is a major challenge for the Sangh.”

Polls start November 22

Uttar Pradesh will conduct three-phase elections for 16 municipal corporations, 438 municipal boards and 202 town areas on November 22, November 26 and November 29. Votes will be counted on December 1.

The eight municipal corporations where the BJP has fielded mayoral candidates from the trading community are Aligarh, Varanasi, Jhansi, Lucknow, Moradabad, Gorakhpur, Agra and Allahabad. Its nominees for the posts in Ghaziabad, Ayodhya-Faizabad and Kanpur belong to the Brahmin caste. Two posts, in Meerut and Mathura-Vrindavan, are reserved for Scheduled Castes while the BJP’s candidate in Saharanpur is Punjabi. The party is yet to declare its mayoral nominees for the Bareilly and Firozabad municipal corporations.

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