Without justifying the Indian regression called caste, it can be stated as a truism that its influence on elections in most states is undeniable. But to see in the pro-Dalit image-carrying BSP’s latest bid of social engineering with Brahmins a doom of the BJP is a stretch. Whereas the role of caste is significant also in southern India, it is particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that self-styled pundits seldom consider other factors while making predictions about the outcome. For sure, there are murmurs of discontent among the palpably consolidated Brahmins of the north Indian state, as observers point out an alleged soft corner Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his caste of Thakurs, the popular reference to Kshatriyas in Uttar Pradesh. But the disaffection is not strong enough to make them vote en masse ― which UP Brahmins are rumoured to do as zealously as Muslims ― against the BJP. More so because the allegation is half-baked, with detractors crying hoarse over a few appointments and promotions that were due anyway. Unlike his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Yogi is not making controversial statements, like brazenly tom-tomming the draconian SC-ST Act, and this is a big difference. While Indians and caste are mutually inseparable except in Bengal, Odisha and the Northeast, the consideration thereof works negatively against the players more than positively for anyone. In other words, appeasing a caste may not earn a politician or political party votes but speaking against the interests of a caste will certainly pit the clan against the speaker. To that extent, Mayawati is miscalculating the sum of scheduled and the uppermost caste. Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav heading the Samajwadi Party is making usual noises against the Yogi government, not necessarily adding a Yadav or even Muslim trumpet to it, as has been his party’s wont previously. OBC is another group none except the BJP is after.
The two principal challengers in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh election have but not questioned yet the change the BJP-led regime has brought about. A visible dip in the rate of crime and increased investments in the state are achievements the ruling party will harp on. It’s true that Yadav had been quite enthusiastic about ‘development’ during his tenure too, but for the first time, the state is seeing the private sector arriving with the notion that the administration will be business-friendly. Earlier, socialists like Yadav ― just like a socialist INC in New Delhi since independence, under PV Narasimha Rao and again during the 10 years of UPA rule ― would plead with companies, both domestic and foreign, only when the treasury ran dry due to their populist profligacy. If both Mayawati and Yadav are not talking economy, it’s because there isn’t much from their tenures in the past that they can boast of. A marginal player, late Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, is meanwhile trying to fish in troubled waters by instigating already tired farmers of the western edge of the state. Deliberately ignoring low crime and high economy, and unable to argue against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reforms in the agriculture sector, the media is betraying usual laziness of intellect and research by saying Hindutva is all that the BJP has.
But of course, BJP has Hindutva. And Yogi has it uncompromised (as does Himanta Biswa Sarma of Assam) unlike the party’s central leadership and their ideological source, both of which are beseeching communists, jihadis, the West and mainstream journalists for certification. That does not mean the “shmashan versus qabristan” rhetoric in the 2017 campaign was a part of it. Blatant discrimination by the Yadav government had to be highlighted. Hindutva of the Yogi kind entails a peaceful state, a no-nonsense and legal tackling of rioters without a witch-hunt, tough action against corrupt elements in administrative and police services, bidding Japanese encephalitis adieu for ever, etc. To get that being Hindu means all this and more is beyond the grasping capability of those who have not known deeply the world’s most ancient, surviving and continuous civilisation. Yogi, in fact, faltered on Hindutva when the municipality of Varanasi damaged the Akshay Vat after callously broadening the passage to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which destroyed several mediaeval and a few ancient places of worship. But nobody is seeing the mistake as an electoral issue. At this stage, the Yogi-led BJP is far ahead of the electoral competition.