COMING UP 2017
Community not known to vote en bloc, divided as it is on class, age and demography Brahminshavebeena hoppingcommunity... WhatapoorBrahmin wantsisdifferentfrom whatanupperclass... eliteBrahminwants
Lucknow: “Chaudansaalkavanvas hai, Brahmanon ke bina nahin khatamhoga (The14-yearexilewon’t end without the support of Brahmins),” paan shop owner Ramnarayan Mishra said in rural BakshiKaTalabnearLucknow,echoing a key concern among BJP members and sympathisers across UP.
Brahmin voters such as Mishra in this Yadav-dominated constituency, where two Brahmins are in the fray, continue to support the BJP but the community is not known to vote en bloc, divided as it is on class, age and demography, among other factors, according to analysts. The community, which accounts for 10% of population in the state and about 20% votes in eastern UP, is openly wooed by almost every party in election season with numerous Brahmin sammelans.
Thestate’sfirstCMwasaBrahmin, Govind Ballabh Pant, and Brahmin leaderssuchasKamalapatiTripathi, HN Bahuguna and Sripati Mishra remained at the helm later. But since December 1989, when Congress’ ND Tiwari demitted office, the CM has been either a Dalit or from OBCs. Mishra, 45, rues the fact that his children have only seen the “YadavMuslimaurJatavraj”inthestate.He is firm about voting for the BJP candidate Avinash Trivedi in his constituency, but he said Nakul Dubey, a former minister, has a better chance of winning. “The fight is with SP here. Brahmins will rally behind the stronger Brahmin candidate. Jo jeet raha hai us Brahman ko jeetayenge (We will make the stronger Brahmin win),” he said.
He said he decided to stand by the BJP only because the party preferred a Brahmin candidate in the constituency over party heavyweights Shivdarshan Yadav, Ram Saran Yadav, Ram Niwas Yadav and Pradeep Yadav. A BJP leader said the party is sure of bagging a majority of Brahmin votes, pointing out that the Modi government’s focus on the BJP icon Deendayal Upadhyaya, a Brahmin, has gone down well with the community. He said there is a wave against YadavMuslim supremacy across UP, more so among Brahmins.
Prashant Trivedi, assistant professor at Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Social studies, said older Brahmins vote for BJP because they feel the party under Modi listens to the community more than anyone else, accommodates them in government and party posts, and talks about development. “But the community also looks for the stronger Brahmin candidate among the ones contesting. BJP today is different from what it was in 2014, but much more galvanised than in 2012,” Trivedi said. “Many Brahmins feel the BJP in several constituencies is not as strong as it was in 2014. This is why they might go for stronger Brahmin candidates of other parties.Butasacommunityatstatelevel they will rally behind the party.”
SP is queering the pitch for BJP in this respect, Trivedi said, for Akhilesh has opened his party to Brahmins who would have never votedforitotherwise,mainlybecause of the community’s minimal representation in the party and government. “This is something the SP realised this election season,” said Professor AK Verma, who heads Kanpur’s Centre for the Study of Society and Politics. “So now in SP posters, instead of just YadavThakur-Muslimfaces,youoftenseea Brahminface.Evenif notacandidate it would be of some influential supporter belonging to the community.”
The Brahmin votes could largely be fragmented over class, according to Verma, who said there is a rush to wooBrahminvotersbecausetheyare not aligned with any party. “To remain politically relevant, the Brahmins have always been a hopping community. They started with Congress,thenwenttoBJP,thenBSP. NowtheyarebacktoBJP.Whatapoor Brahmin wants is different from what an upper class, elite Brahmin wants. The former will vote for better lawandorderbutthelattertobeclose to the government,” he said.
The BJP’s decision not to project a chief ministerial face is unlikely to go down well with Brahmin voters, Vermasaid.“AkhileshYadavismore like Manmohan Singh of the Congress who is favoured even if people don’t like the party,” he said.
VishwanathPandeyof theBanaras Hindu University said Brahmins of UP are upset because they have been marginalised over the years, despite being sought after by every party. In this election, however, he said the community is likely to stick with the BJP.“WaitfortheMarch3rallybythe PMinVaranasi.Itwillhaveanimpact on entire poorvanchal,” he said.
Congress leaders, on the hand, said the party will try to replicate its success in Bihar, where it won 27 of the 41 seats it contested, with its formula of Dalit-Brahmin-Muslim combination. Verma said Mayawati, who stitched a Dalit-Brahmin vote bank in 2007, could not hold on to the support of the Brahmins in subsequent elections because Dalits f elt Brahmins were eating into their pre-eminent place in the party. Even in 2007, only about 16% Brahmins voted for the BSP, he said.