Cong Candidates’ List Rides High on Caste Calculation
Party giving maximum representation to Dalits, Muslims and upper castes; Dalits form largest social segment with 28 nominees
New Delhi: A close look at the Congress list of candidates for Uttar Pradesh shows the party giving maximum representation to the Dalits, Muslims and upper castes, which used to form the party’s rainbow constituency during its heydays.
The party on Saturday released a list of 11 candidates, taking the total to 107 as its leaders continue to be in talks with ally Samajwadi Party to avoid whattheycalled“friendlycontests”in a couple of seats where both have fielded their nominees. The SP had offered the Congress 105 seats.
In a state where caste considerations ride high during electoral battles, Dalits form the largest social segment on the Congress list with 28 nominees. Keeping in mind the reported unease amongmanyDalitsub-casteswiththe Jatav-dominated Bahujan Samaj candidates from among non-Jatavs
to consolidate Muslims along SP’s Yadav base crucial, Congress has fielded 19 from minority community
upper castes with 15 Brahmin and 14 Rajput nominees as bid to chip away BJP core base
Party, the Congress has taken care to field 18 of its Dalit candidates from the sub-castes, including Valmiki (5), Pasi (3), Dhobi (3) and Katheria, Kori, Kol and Dusadh (one each), while nominating only 10 from Jatavs. Half the Dalit candidates are under 45 years of age, a source involved in the exercise said. S u p p o r t e d by Ra h u l Gandhi, an AICC think tank under the chairman of party’s SC department, K Raju, has been working on a ‘Mission on youth leadership building among Dalits’ in UP, as part of efforts to repair its Dalit base in the state thatwashugelydentedbyMayawati’s BSP.
If one major attraction of the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP to align with the Congress was the presumption that the latter can help reign in a large Muslim consolidation along with SP’s Yadav votes, the Congress has re s p o nded by f i e l d i ng 1 9 Muslims. With BJP’s core focus on upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs, it is crucial for the Congress to chip away some upper caste votes for the
alliance. Its list, understandably, has asmanyas35candidatesfromvarious upper caste communities: 15 Brahmins, 14 Rajputs, four Vaish and two Bhumihars. Incidentally, among theAssemblysegmentscomingunder Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, Congress has fielded some entrenched upper caste leaders, such as RajeshKumarMishra,Ajay Rai and Laliteshpathi Tripathi, even as there is considerable opposition to the re-nomination of Anil Srivastav f rom Varanasi Cantonment seat despite his losing the seat thrice. Of the 11 OBC candidates on the list, only four belong to the Yadavs. Among the rest, five are from the Kurmi community and two from Jat. There are also four from Punjabi communities. It has also re-nominated almost all its 20 plus sitting MLAs, even as the list also figures a few who recently joined the party from rival sides.
The Congress-SP leadership is hoping to trip the BJP challenge and overcome the incumbency burden by banking on rallying a formidable Muslim-Yadav consolidation around the alliance. They are also hoping to bring in some Dalit and Brahmin votes along with thegoodwillamongasectionof urban youth.
On the flip side, the inner worries of the Congress is whether the upper caste and non-Yadav OBCs, feeling let outbythehugelyYadav-patronisedSP rule, will prefer the BJP or the BSP. Having left nearly 300 seats to its foeturned-ally SP, the Congress leadership also has a task to ensure that its traditional supporters, especially those who were aspiring to fight on Congress tickets in the seats ‘conceded’ to the partner, do not resist voting for SP nominees. Similarly, Akhilesh Yadav has to ensure that his party’s Yadav base, traditionally fed on antiCongress sentiments, voted for the ‘hand’ symbol of the Congress. As of now, the leaderships of both parties are unitedly working overtime to cement the alliance, from top to bottom.
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