Shah’s Choice of UP BJP Chief to Dampen Nitish’s UP Pitch
Phulpur MP may just be the fuel needed to fire political ambitions of Koeris against Yadav dominance of OBC politics in UP
New Delhi: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s designs of making a robust foray into UP may have got its biggest social engineering jolt when BJP president Amit Shah appointed KP Maurya as the party’s state chief ahead of next year’s assembly polls.
Apart from Kumar’s secular credentials and image of good governance, the JD(U) leader’s entry into UP hinged on his mobilisation of LavKush (read Kurmi & Koeri communities), with which he successfully challenged Lalu Prasad’s Muslim-Yadav combination during the late 1990s. Signs to this effect came when Kumar, who is from the Kurmi community, travelled to Ghazipur in UP in February, ostensibly at the invitation of the Samrat Ashok Club but with an eye on wooing the Koeris, who claim KingAshokaisfromtheircommunity.
Shah’s choice of Maurya, a Koeri, as thestateBJPchief,maycomeasaspanner in the works for Kumar’s goal of making the JD(U) the vanguard of the politicalambitionsof theKoerisinUP. While Kumar gave prominence to Kurmi-Kushwaha candidates during theBiharpolls,suchastrategymaynot cut much ice with the Koeris in UP. UnlikeinBihar,theKurmisandKoeris have not worked in tandem in UP. So, while Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ruling SP made a relatively strong foothold among Kurmi community, the Mayawati-led BSP has a better presence among the Koeris. SP Maurya and BS Kushwaha have been among the prominent political Koeri leaders from the BSP.
Koeris are considered the fourth-largest politically organised peasant community(afterYadavs,JatsandKurmis) in the state. According to the 1931 caste census, the Koeris constituted 3.1% of
KURMIS & KOERIS IN UP
the state’s population, almost equal to the Kurmis (3.5%). In comparison, the Yadavpopulationwaspeggedat8.7%. “Maurya, Kushwaha, Shakya and Saini are some of the common sur- names belonging to similar peasant occupations spread across UP,” SPS Baghel, national president of the BJP’s OBC Morcha, told ET. The SP and the BJP made inroads into the Koeri support base after BS Kushwaha’s fall from grace in the wake of the National Rural Health Missioncorruptionscandal.Whilethe BJP inducted BS Kushwaha ahead of the 2012 assembly election, it had to quickly sideline him after an outcry over his alleged NRHM links. Mulayam unsuccessfully fielded Kushwaha’s wife Shivkanya from Ghazipur in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with an eye on Koeri votes. KeshavMauryamaybeagreenhorn, but Modi and Shah are hoping the Phulpur MP may just be the fuel needed to fire the political ambitions of the Koeri community against the Yadav’s dominance of OBC politics in UP.