Lok Sabha Elections 2024: By Giving Preference to Dalits and OBCs in UP, How SP-led INDIA Bloc has Made BJP Defensive

The move is said to be aimed at breaking BJP’s unchallenged support base of the marginalised but numerically significant Hindu communities.
Though it is not precisely the "Pichda, Dalit, Alpsankhyak" formula that Akhilesh Yadav had given, the caste mathematics of the SP-led INDIA alliance in UP is nevertheless a bold act.
Though it is not precisely the "Pichda, Dalit, Alpsankhyak" formula that Akhilesh Yadav had given, the caste mathematics of the SP-led INDIA alliance in UP is nevertheless a bold act. Image credit: X/@samajwadiparty.

New Delhi: In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP)-led INDIA alliance is expected to put in fray a larger number of Dalit and backward caste candidates in the 2024 Lok Sabha election than the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It is believed that this is a move towards breaking the unchallenged support for the BJP among the marginalised but numerically dominant Hindu communities.

In line with its election slogan, Pichda (backward), Dalit and Alpsankhyak (minorities), the SP has fielded Muslims at a far lower rate than their share of the state’s population; and therefore, it has not been entirely truthful in its claim.

But by giving other backward classes (OBCs) and Dalits a larger say in candidate selection, it has achieved its goal of matching the BJP in capturing the crucial Hindu “Bahujan” vote.

Together, OBCs and Dalits make up at least 60–65% of the state’s population and have played a significant role in the ascent to power and advancement of the BJP under Narendra Modi and its Hindutva politics.

Uttar Pradesh has 80 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has announced their candidates for 77 seats thus far. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), the SP, and the Congress have announced their candidacies on 75 seats.

The BJP and its allies have fielded 29 candidates from the backward castes and 32 from the “upper” castes. The saffron party has declared Dalit candidates only for reserved seats.

Of the total 17 reserved seats in the state, the NDA has so far fielded its nominees for 16 constituencies. Adhering to its dominant Hindutva agenda, the BJP-led coalition has not announced a single Muslim candidate.

It is noteworthy that, despite the BJP’s claims to be the party that best represents OBCs and Dalits, the majority of the communities that gain the most from its ticket distribution are powerful Hindu communities like Brahmins and Thakurs.

Of the 32 “upper” castes vying for the NDA, an astounding 17 are Brahmins and 11 are Thakur. That 28 is nearly equal to the number of OBCs the party has fielded, despite the fact that OBCs are estimated to be over three times more than their combined population.

Two members of the Bania community and one Bhumihar have also been nominated by the NDA.

It is anticipated that the BJP will field more “upper” caste candidates. The party has not yet announced candidates for the seats of Rae Bareli and Kaiserganj, where it has historically fielded “upper” caste nominees.

The third seat, Robertsganj, is a reserved constituency for which the NDA has not yet nominated its candidate.

The primary tactic employed by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh so far has been to divide the non-Yadav OBCs against the Yadavs and consolidate their scattered votes in its favour. The state’s principal Opposition party, the SP, has been fighting for years against the idea that it exclusively serves the interests of the Yadav community, to which its senior leadership belongs, partly because of media manipulation and its own shortcomings.

The SP has been painted by the BJP as a party that supports Yadavs and Muslims at the expense of other communities, particularly backward castes who are not Yadavs.

The Nishad Party, the Apna Dal (Sonelal), the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party are among the smaller non-Yadav OBC-based parties with which the BJP has forged coalitions in order to further this notion. Additionally, the BJP has presented PM Modi, its star campaigner, as a representative of the “lower” castes.

While numerous government reports demonstrate that other dominant backward castes — like the Kurmis, the Jats and the Gujjars — also secured shares of government jobs and political representation that are disproportionately higher than their population share, the BJP has promoted the theory that Yadavs have cornered the 27% OBC quota.

The Akhilesh Yadav-led SP has raised the representation of non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits in the candidate selection process in 2024 in an effort to refute this narrative.

With its own symbol, the SP is contesting on 62 seats. Only five of the 29 OBCs that the party has fielded so far are Yadavs.

The party is expected to field another OBC (Kurmi) in Fatehpur, sources said, so the SP’s OBC total tally reaches 30.

As part of the PDA experiment, the SP has nominated two Dalits for general seats — Awadhesh Pradesh in Faizabad and Sunita Verma in Meerut. Although the SP is fighting for 14 seats reserved for Dalits, it is expected to field 16 Dalits in the ongoing election.

The party has declared 11 “upper” caste candidates: three representatives each from the Thakur and the Brahmin castes, one Bhumihar, two Kayasthas and two Banias.

Muslims constitute 20% of the total population in the state, yet the SP has fielded only four candidates belonging to the religious minority community.

The SP’s ally, the Congress, has fielded a higher proportion of “upper” caste candidates. If it fields “upper” caste candidates in Rae Bareli and Amethi too in addition to the nine “upper” caste candidates in nine of the 17 seats the Congress is running for, the percentage of its nominees belonging to the socially, economically and educationally preveiled class would stand at roughly 53%.

The grand old party has fielded three Dalits for reserved seats and two Muslim candidates from Saharanpur and Amroha constituencies.

The three other non-Yadav OBC communities are Gaderia, Kurmi and Teli.

The INDIA bloc has left Bhadohi seat from the West Bengal-based Trinamool Congress TMC, which has fielded a Brahmin candidate here.

Across 80 constituencies, the NDA is anticipated to field 17 Dalits (all on reserved seats), 29 OBCs and 34 “upper” caste candidates. This is predicated on the assumption that the BJP will field “upper” caste candidates on general category seats of Rae Bareli and Kaiserganj.

On the other hand, 6 Muslims, 18 Dalits, 19 “upper” castes and 32 OBC make up the 75 nominees that the INDIA alliance has declared so far.

As estimated, the Opposition alliance’s numbers will be as follows once all 80 candidates are declared: 33 OBCs, 22 “upper” castes, 19 Dalits and 6 Muslims.

The Pichda-Dalit-Agda (“upper” caste) version of the PDA has developed, which is not quite the Pichda-Dalit-Alpsankhyak formula that Akhilesh Yadav had promised. Rather, it is a daring political move that has made the BJP defensive for the first time in 10 years.

This time around, the SP has made significant investments on OBC castes, which are involved in agricultural farming. The party has decalred nine Kurmis (whose number, if sources are to be belived, can grow to 10) and six people from Shakya-Saini-Kushwaha-Maurya castes as its nominees.

Jats and Gujjars, the two landed dominating OBC communities in western Uttar Pradesh, have got only one candidate each.

The five Yadavs that the SP has fielded are all members of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family. While his cousins Tez Pratap Yadav, Aditya Yadav, Akshay Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav are constesting from Kannauj, Budaun, Firozabad and Azamgarh respectively, Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav is the party’s candidate from Mainpuri.

Additionally, the riverine Nishad (also called Mallah — who are traditionally fishermen) caste group have received four tickets from the SP, while the Rajbhar, the Lodhi and the Gaderia communities have each received one.

The caste matehmatics of the BJP is a little bit different. It and its allies has announced three candidates from the Shakya-Saini-Kushwaha communities, seven from Kurmi caste, four from the Nishad/Kashyap caste, four from Lodhis, four from Jats and three from the Gujjar community.

In addition, the NDA has fielded a Rajbhar and two Telis, one of them is Modi himself (Varanasi). In Azamgarh, the BJP has only one Yadav candidate: Dinesh Lal Yadav, also known as Nirahua, the popular Bhojpuri actor.

After suffering several setbacks, Akhilesh Yadav was compelled to enlist the support of Ambedkarite OBC and Dalit leaders from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in order to increase the representation of these communities in his party’s leadership and candidate selection processes.

Senior Kurmi leader Lalji Verma in Ambedkar Nagar, Gaderia leader Raja Ram Pal in Akbarpur and Babu Singh Kushwaha in Jaunpur are a few of the backward caste leaders who have been fileded by the party so far.

Another noteworthy aspect of the SP in this election is that of the 62 seats it is contesting with its own symbol, only nine are held by Muslims and Yadavs (the party’s traditional support base). It is less that 15% — half of the state’s total Yadav and Muslim population.

However, the final outcome may be based on several variables, including the opposition’s unwillingness to present a PM face against Modi as well as concerns about Hindutva, Hindu polarisation and resources.

Nonetheless, the SP has made a positive impression on these communities by outpacing the BJP in the distribution of tickets to OBCs and Dalits, indicating that it is prepared to provide them hissedari (share) in accordance with their abaadi (population).

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