From 'Tilak tarazu aur Talwar..inko maaro joote chaar' in 1989 to 'Haathi nahin Ganesh hai...Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai' in 2007, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has come a long way in wooing dominant castes, particularly Brahmins, for votes. The party has once again resumed its outreach among Brahmins and it is being led by BSP supremo Mayawati's close aide Satish Chandra Mishra.
It appears that the party wants to revive its Dalit-Brahmin social engineering that helped it get a majority in 2007.
However, there's an important difference this time - a tinge of Hindutva in the party's strategy which hasn't gone unnoticed.
The party has taken up the issue of Ram Temple in Ayodhya - a cause championed by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"BSP will expedite the construction of the Ram Mandir if it comes to power," Misra said at a BSP event in Ayodhya on 23 July.
After Ayodhya, the BSP plans to hold similar conventions in other temple towns including Mathura, Varanasi and even Chitrakoot, where RSS recently organised a four-day brainstorming session ahead of the upcoming elections.
The BSP perceives a disenchantment among Brahmins with the Yogi Adityanath regime and is trying to tap into this by presenting itself as an alternative party protecting their interests.
Brahmins, Ram Mandir and Khushi Dubey
The BSP kickstarted its outreach among Brahmins with a Brahmin Sammelan, which was later rechristened to 'Vichar Goshthi' for 'Prabuddh Varg' (intellectual class) in Ayodhya on Friday.
During his speech, Satish Mishra invoked several issues: the alleged persecution of Brahmins in the state, delay in the construction of Ram Mandir and incarceration of Khushi Dubey, wife of slain gangster Amar Dubey.
Taking potshots at BJP, Mishra questioned the delay in the construction of the temple and promised to expedite it if the party comes to power with full majority in 2022. He also blamed the ruling party for politicising Lord Ram.
"It is BJP's narrowmindedness that they think lord Ram is theirs. He belongs to everyone. We pity when people use Lord Ram as a political tool," Mishra said.
Claiming that Brahmin community has been alienated from BJP because of their alleged persecution, Mishra said that the community will rally behind BSP and give it the edge they had in 2007.
"The Brahmin community is feeling oppressed, harassed and sidelined. When Brahmins give support, all communities rally behind," Mishra said while speaking to local media in Ayodhya.
He clarified that BSP will contest the upcoming elections on its own. "The BSP in UP will fight alone and will not come in alliance with anyone. We will be in alliance with the people of the state, with 'Sarv Samaj' (all communities)," Mishra said.
"We have made an alliance with 'Sarva Samaj' in the past as well. In 2007, we created a brotherhood alliance with Sarv Samaj, and the entire Brahmin community contributed to the alliance which helped in the formation of BSP government with a full majority," he added.
Who is Khushi Dubey?
Khushi Dubey, 17, is the wife of slain gangster Amar Dubey, a close aide of Vikas Dubey who was also gunned down in an encounter in 2020. Khushi got married to Amar on 29 June 2020, three days before the infamous encounter in Kanpur's Bikru village where eight policemen were killed in the line of duty.
Khushi, barely three days into her married life, was initially detained on 3 July and later officially arrested on 8 July, the day her husband Amar was gunned down in an encounter. She has been in jail since. While many believe that she was framed in the police crackdown in the aftermath of the 2 July encounter because of her relationship with Amar, she is yet to get any relief from court.
Police filed a chargesheet in the case in October 2020. Khushi has been denied bail both by the lower court as well as the Allahabad High Court. Her lawyers are now planning to approach the apex court for relief.
"Khushi Dubey's case is a very sensitive one. The 16-year-old girl, barely a day after her marriage, was jailed under serious sections including murder. If they seek any legal help, we will help them with anything in our capacity," Mishra said.
Khushi's lawyer Shivkant Dixit claims that he will not get into the politics surrounding her legal battle but welcomes anyone who is willing to help. "I got a call from Satish Chandra Mishra and he sought details about the case. Khushi has been through a lot and if anybody is willing to help, we will welcome that person. But I have maintained that we don't want to politicise the matter," said Dixit.
A Repeat of 2007 is Not Easy. What All Has changed?
A repeat of 2007 is easier said than done. The circumstances are very different from the time when the BSP won a majority on its own.
A dominant sentiment against the Samajwadi Party coupled with the Brahmin-Dalit coalition is said to have been the winning formula for the BSP in 2007. The same consolidation of Brahmin and Dalit votes won't be easy.
Since 2014, BJP has been enjoying unhindered support of upper caste voters including the Brahmins who constitute for 11 percent of the population in the state. It is imperative for the BJP to hold on to this support if they want to continue their winning streak in the state.
Even if Brahmins do decide to move away from the BJP, the BSP would still face competition from the SP and the Congress, who have been unsuccessfully trying to break the BJP's monopoly over upper castes, especially Brahmins.
Another problem for the BSP is that its hold over its core Dalit vote bank may be shrinking, mainly due to the BJP's inroads into this section.
The BJP won all 17 SC reserved constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and 15 out of 17 in the 2019 elections.
The BJP's gain has been mainly among non-Jatav Dalits.
The BSP's traditional base among Jatavs is also being threatened by the rise of Chandrashekhar's Azad Samaj Party (ASP). Though ASP may not have been able to make its presence felt electorally so far, the organisation has made deep inroads in several West UP districts.