News analysis | Tasting the malai of power – caste cracks come to light in UP

The exodus of OBC leaders from the BJP is not an unexpected event, reflecting latent discontent among groups deprived of a share of the spoils of power

In an unprecedented move in December 2019, around 100 BJP MPs sat on a dharna at the Uttar Pradesh Assembly premises in Lucknow against their own government, accusing it of arrogance and authoritarianism .

The protest came in the wake of BJP’s Loni MLA Nand Kishore Gurjar being prevented from presenting his side of the story in an assault case registered against him in Ghaziabad. While Mr. Gurjar’s motives were questionable, the incident showed that a party MP could not overrule local government under the rule of Yogi Adityanath.

Cut to Swami Prasad Maurya’s impassioned speech on the occasion of Makar Sankranti earlier this week when he said that the malay (benefits) of power has not been shared with the backward classes by the government for the past five years.

Mr. Gurjar and Mr. Maurya both belong to the OBC communities which make up around 44% of the electorate in the poll-bound state. The difference is that, while Mr. Gurjar is a small fry, Mr. Maurya is a regional satrap who has positioned himself as a bellwether politician and an expert in negotiating political quicksand.

His supporters on the ground found nothing unethical in his last-minute decision and backed his call to overthrow the government where he served as a minister for five years.

Political line | Mandal vs. Mandir in UP

Shifting sands observers said that in the caste-riddled state, it is the share and quality of the “cream” of power that traditionally decide political allegiance in elections.

In the down-to-earth nomenclature of what political scientists call the patron-client relationship, malay refers to a range of power benefits – from job reservation, a share of government contracts, penalties for illegal dealings, and the freedom to display power and circumvent the law in the neighborhood Thana (police station).

Also, as a BJP insider explained, in the UP East, a cup of tea and a few warm words shared by the Chief Minister are sometimes more important than getting the job done. The fact that Mr. Adityanath may not have been used to such courtesies from Lucknow worked against him. “He is trying to be Modi, forgetting that the prime minister earned his job while being taxed on the state,” the party official said.

A day after Mr Maurya’s resignation, when photos of Mr Adityanath sharing a meal with a Dalit party worker emerged, it was seen as an exercise in damage control by a party which described the photo ops as “poverty tourism” when congressional leaders released similar images. events.

Significantly, through a single speech, Mr Maurya had shifted the narrative of the UP elections from religion to caste, which Samajwadi party chairman Akhilesh Yadav had been trying to do for months by cobbling together a rainbow alliance with regional outfits like the Rashtriya Lok Dal. , Party Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj and Mahan Dal.

There is a reason. Experts say that while Yadavs and Jatavs have received the fruits of the Mandal policy, Mauryas, Sainis, Kashyaps, Kushwahas who constitute the bottom of the OBC pyramid in the state have remained unhappy with their slice of the pie. Observers said the latter could not qualify for reservations because the Jats, Yadavs and Gurjars are socially and economically better placed to get jobs. For years, these groups supported Bahujan Samaj (BSP) party leader Mayawati, hoping that she would secure their move to the SC category, thereby opening up a reserve share in this section. However, under the BSP regime, it was the Jatavs who enjoyed the so-called cream.

By switching allegiance to the BJP, they saw another opportunity to share power. However, Mr. Adityanath’s attempts to include many castes languishing at the margins of the OBC category into the SC category could not circumvent legal scrutiny.

Apart from social marginalization, the push for privatization under BJP rule – especially in basic education which attracts teachers from these castes – has made them uncertain about the future of reservation in government jobs.

“Except education, everything has been privatized. Even our work is evaluated by a third party. The impression is that if the BJP government returns, even the teaching part will pass into private hands, resulting in pay cuts. Talks to lower the retirement age to 50 have already started,” said the principal of a primary school in Aligarh. “Direct transfer of benefits may be a good thing in the long run, but it is currently creating bottlenecks because many poor parents’ accounts are not linked to Aadhaar cards. This government seems to think that corruption is only at the bottom of governance,” she said, pointing out that when it came to political rallies, the first person to be commissioned was the teacher. of primary.

Mr Maurya’s supporters recalled that after the 2017 assembly election, the BJP forced Mr Adityanath on them as prime minister despite the pre-election promise to make an OBC in the face of the leader of the State.

“We accepted Yogiji because he came like a monk wrapped in saffron but when he started imposing thakurwad in the guise of Hindutva it angered our rulers,” said Rakesh Saini, a teacher from Saharanpur, recalling the mistreatment of Kalyan Singh during Vajpayee’s rule. This is why Mr. Aditynath’s 80-20 remark [referring to the population divide between Hindus and Muslims], which was supposed to be a masterstroke, annoyed the OBCs and suddenly became the stuff of a parody.

Mr Saini quoted his benefactor and former minister Dharam Singh Saini who told reporters he was left out of the cabinet because of his caste. “Officials did not take note of his presence and the records did not reach him,” he said.

Thus, the rush of the leaders of the lower layers of the OBCs towards the SP is not perceived as a sudden movement. For days, Whatsapp groups have been full of messages sharing the disproportionate number of Thakurs [the caste to which Chief Minister Adityanath belongs] posted as district magistrates, superintendents of police and post officers during Yogi’s reign. Observers have also put the role of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya under the scanner and do not give a clean word to the central BJP leadership which has shared a hot and cold relationship with Mr Adityanath over the past few years.

The fact that Mr. Swami Prasad Maurya’s daughter did not file her papers as a BJP MP from Budaun and swear allegiance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is used to cement the impression that the central and state leaderships of the BJP do not are still not on the same page.

“How could he miss the growing discontent in his own community? It seems he pushed the senior Maurya to flex his muscular arm at the last minute to settle scores within the party,” a West UP Yogi loyalist said.

Interestingly, SP insiders speak of an uncanny similarity between the 2017 Samajwadi party and the 2022 BJP. This time it’s the BJP’s turn,” said an SP leader from Bijnor.

Asmer Beg, professor of political science at Aligarh Muslim University, described the revolt by OBC leaders as “a mini but significant churn ahead of the Assembly elections”.

“The Hindu-Muslim narrative had become a bit exaggerated and as Akhilesh said, if Samajwadi and Ambekarites could come together, we might be surprised,” Prof Beg said.

However, he added, it is still in its infancy and the BJP would try every trick to bring the narrative back to religion. For the leader of the SP, he said, it will not be easy to accommodate the ambitions of new entrants into the fold of the party.

One thing is certain, however: the Baboua [youngster as Mr. Akshilesh Yadav has been referred to by his rivals] has finally become a worthy challenger to the Baba [Yogi Adityanath]. Elections in general and the UP in particular concern to have (waves or perception) and finally, SP has a new wind in its sails.