Political parties across the spectrum are trying to woo Brahmin voters in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Historically, Brahmins have played a decisive role in capturing the power in the state, and political leaders know that for a fact.
When Brahmins sided with Mayawati, BSP formed the government with a thumping majority in 2007, and when they sided with Samajwadi Party (SP), Akhilesh Yadav became Chief Minister (CM) in 2012.
They have favoured the BJP for the last three elections but this time there are rumors that Brahmins are angry with the saffron-clad CM Yogi Adityanath, which may swing the kingmakers away from the BJP.
Let’s take a look at the power of Brahmin voters in UP, and which way they are headed this time.
Six Brahmin Chief Ministers in UP
UP has seen six Brahmin CMs so far including the first Chief Minister Govind Vallabh Pant, followed by Sucheta Kripalani, Kamlapati Tripathi, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, Sripati Mishra, and Narayan Datt Tiwari.
With the rise of OBC and backward politics after Mandal agitation, no Brahmin could become the chief minister in UP since 1989.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, an OBC, became Chief Minister for the first time in 1989 and, since then, except for Rajnath Singh and Yogi Adityanath, all other CMs of the state have been either OBC or Dalit.
The BJP, “a party of Brahmin-Thakur-Vaishya”, also projected Kalyan Singh, an OBC, as a face. Though a Brahmin becoming the CM of UP has become difficult with time given the caste equations, Brahmin voters have retained the role of kingmakers.
Brahmin Assertion After 2007
Brahmins remain close to the power center even though there has been no CM from the community in UP since 1989.
Hit by the Mandal upheaval, Brahmin politics remained in the doldrums from 1990 to 2007, but they regrouped and showed unity and strength, resulting in a BSP government led by Mayawati in 2007.
Brahmin candidates won 41 seats out of 85 contested in the 2007 assembly elections. Mayawati got a majority in the UP assembly with 206 seats and secured a 30 percent vote share.
This revolution was termed as “Social Engineering of Mayawati” as it outperformed the Muslim-Yadav (MY) formula of SP which got 25 percent of vote share and 97 assembly seats. But Brahmins, seeking proximity to power, sensed the direction of political winds in 2012 and sided with SP led by Akhilesh Yadav.
Swayed by the surge of the Modi wave, Brahmins have wholeheartedly supported the BJP in the 2014, 2017, and 2019 elections. In the last general elections in 2019, BJP secured around 83 percent of the total Brahmin votes in UP.
Brahmin Influence 115 Seats
Brahmins are around 10 percent of the total voters in the state of UP and decide the fate of around 115 assembly seats.
In a few places such as central Bundelkhand, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Balrampur, Deoria, Jaunpur, Amethi, Kanpur, Noida, and Basti Brahmins are more than 15 percent of the voter base.
Brahmins Moving Away From BJP?
Member of Parliament from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Sanjay Singh made sensational allegations calling BJP an anti-Brahmin party and accused that more than 500 Brahmins have got murdered in the regime of Yogi Adityanath. “At least 20 brahmins have been killed in fake encounters,” he alleged.
The national general secretary of BSP, Satish Chandra Mishra says that Khushi Dubey is being harassed as she is a Brahmin. There have been many such allegations since 2017 and the BJP under Yogi Adityanath is feeling the heat from the Brahmin community.
This is being seen as a big reason why the BJP had not acted against Ajay Mishra Teni after the Lakhimpur incident during the farmers’ agitation last year. BJP feared backlash from Brahmins and, instead of taking action, it formed a committee of Brahmins.
Teni became part of the committee which was an effort to enhance his political standing in order to woo Brahmin support.
The narrative of BJP being anti-Brahmin is getting traction in the assembly elections and political parties are burning the midnight oil to cash in on it.
The picture of Akhilesh Yadav with a battle-ax after he unveiled a statue of Bhagwan Parshuram in Gosaiganj in Lucknow went viral. “Yadavs and Brahmins are with us,” Yadav said on the occasion.
BJP has delegated the responsibility of wooing brahmins to Satish Chandra Mishra. He has been organising Brahmin Sammelans at many places. Mishra is raising questions over the encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey and questioning Yogi Adityanath's government over harassment of Khushi Dubey.
To counter the narrative pushed by opponents, BJP formed a 16 member committee to look into grievances of Brahmins. Ajay Mishra Teni was also made a member of the committee. The committee has its task cut out to identify the issues concerning the kingmakers and set them right.
Meanwhile, Congress has fielded Khushi Dubey, wife of Amar Dubey who got killed during the Vikas Dubey encounter. Congress said that the BJP government harassed Khushi Dubey, a daughter of Kanpur, by putting her in jail for months. Congress has also given a ticket to her mother Gayatri Tiwari.
There is an old adage in UP that a Brahmin comes with ten extra voters along. Meaning: Brahmin voters play the part of “influencer” also. Though a Brahmin could not become a CM in UP in the last 32 years, the community’s influence cannot be denied as the clincher in decision making.
Brahmins in UP have always remained close to whoever sat on the throne and they have voted en-masse for the party which is likely to be a winner. This time, too, they are waiting and watching the situation closely.
The role of popular narrative and perception war will also play a deciding role. The influence of BJP on both Brahmins and non-Yadav OBC has waned in UP and it is to be seen how much damage control through ticket distribution would be possible through last-minute maneuvering.
Brahmins seem to be in a mood of wielding the battle-ax against “Thakur” Yogi Adityanath.
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