The BJP’s exodus from Uttar Pradesh of a number of ministers, legislators and leaders, mostly from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), has given a new element to the state’s electoral scene. So far, three ministers and nine MPs have resigned from the party, accusing Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the party leadership of ignoring the concerns of Dalits, backward people, farmers, unemployed youths and shopkeepers. Among those who left the party are some influential leaders of important OBC caste groups. Party desertions are common before elections, mainly due to ticket refusals. But the exodus from the BJP to the UP may have other reasons than personal grievances. It goes without saying that a change in the caste combinations that do the electoral arithmetic in the state will have an impact on the outcome of the elections.
The BJP’s impressive victories in the UP in recent elections, including the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 Assembly election sweep, were the result of the consolidation of votes from Hindu advanced castes, non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits. groups. But there are cracks in this combine now. The Jats, who had supported the BJP after the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, are now alienated after the farmers’ unrest. Yogi Adityanath’s pro-Rajput image is said to have alienated part of the Brahmin community. During the five years of his reign, the emphasis seems to have been more on ‘Kamandal’ than on ‘Mandal’. A breach in the OBC votes is bound to hurt the BJP in the election. That the disgruntled OBC leaders have all gone to the Samajwadi party should worry the BJP more because the SP is the strongest challenger to the ruling party, given the emaciation of the BSP from Mayawati and the revival of the Congress under Priyanka Gandhi is still ongoing at best. In progress.
The narrative of neglect of OBC interests and continued desertions have shaken the BJP because they could lead to a split in its voting base and an OBC, a consolidation of the Muslim vote under the PS. OBCs constitute about 50% of the state’s population. Of the 107 candidates nominated by the party for the first and second rounds of voting, 44 are from OBC castes and 19 from scheduled caste groups. The party has also moved to project Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s OBC identity in the campaign, even though it would amount to a downgrading of his image. Caste calculations are driving electoral strategies in the state right now, but it’s too early to tell who will have the upper hand.