Caste-based alliances clash in high-stake polls in Purvanchal

| | Sultanpur
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Caste-based alliances clash in high-stake polls in Purvanchal

Friday, 24 May 2024 | Biswajeet Banerjee | Sultanpur

As the election momentum moves to eastern Uttar Pradesh, also known as Purvanchal, the strength of alliances is set to be tested. Both the INDI Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance are going all out to secure a win in this critical region.

Key regional allies such as the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, NISHAD Party and Apna Dal (Sonelal), crucial components of the NDA, are under pressure to deliver. These parties, representing various communities, assert their influence across the state.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party has skillfully crafted a social engineering umbrella, giving representation to leaders of these caste groups in both Central and state governments. Its alliance with Rajbhar, Kurmi and Nishad communities, as well as their sub-castes, is stronger compared to 2019,” says Nomita P Kumar of the Giri Institute of Development Studies.

NISHAD Party’s president Sanjay Nishad claims to represent about 54 per cent of the marginalised population, spanning from Kanpur and Kannauj to Gorakhpur and Ghazipur. Communities such as Sachan, Verma, Katiyar and Kurmi hold significant sway within this demographic.

To manage coalition dynamics, the BJP recently allocated a legislative council seat to Om Prakash Rajbhar and fielded him from the Ghosi Lok Sabha constituency, also nominating his son Arvind Rajbhar. Sanjay Nishad, a cabinet minister, has his son contesting from Sant Kabir Nagar constituency, with another son holding a legislative assembly position. Apna Dal (S) leader Anupriya Patel secured a Central ministry while her husband, Ashish Patel became a cabinet minister in UP.

The BJP has allocated a larger share of seats to Apna Dal (S) compared to other allies, including Mirzapur and Robertsganj. Anupriya Patel’s previous victories in these constituencies have significantly bolstered the BJP’s position in Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and Rohilkhand regions.

The INDIA Bloc, comprising Samajwadi Party, Congress, and Trinamool Congress, faces significant challenges. The Mahan Dal, previously aligned with the INDIA Bloc, parted ways after SP gave a ticket to tainted Babu Ram Kushwaha from Jaunpur.


NDA’s targeted campaigns

The NDA has launched targeted campaigns across Purvanchal. The BJP has initiated efforts such as the women's conference in Varanasi and a new voter outreach model. The party has compiled block-wise lists of beneficiaries of government schemes like Jal Jeevan Mission, housing, and sanitation projects to engage with voters and highlight the benefits delivered by the NDA government.

Each assembly constituency has been divided into three to four segments, with senior leaders conducting meetings in each segment. Specialised group meetings are also being held with professionals such as doctors, engineers, textile traders and pharmacists. Leaders in these sectors are tasked with engaging their peers to garner support.

A significant focus has been placed on backward classes. BJP’s Backward Class Kashi region general secretary Subhash Kushwaha stated that Yadav leaders from Etawah, Etah, Farrukhabad and Mainpuri have been deployed in Varanasi and surrounding areas. Similarly, in regions dominated by the Nishad community, leaders from this community are spearheading the campaign.


INDIA Bloc’s counter strategy

The INDIA Bloc is adopting a meticulous approach on the 27 seats. Congress and SP have strategically placed office-bearers of their frontal organisations in these constituencies. A dedicated team monitors BJP’s public meetings and prepares responses for their leaders.

Congress has applied the Rae Bareli-Amethi model, dividing assembly constituencies into sectors and assigning leaders of the predominant community to manage each booth. Both Congress and SP are emphasising leadership from castes beyond Yadav and Muslims to diversify their appeal.

Congress state in-charge Avinash Pandey is overseeing the Brahmin-dominated areas, coordinating meetings between SP and Congress leaders during the day and hosting night chaupals. Dr Rajpal Kashyap, state president of SP Backward Class Cell, is engaged with the Nishad, Kashyap, and Bind communities, highlighting SP’s strategic placement of five candidates from the Nishad community.


High-profile contenders

This electoral phase sees many prominent figures contesting from 14 constituencies in the sixth phase and 13 in the seventh. Among them are Maneka Gandhi from Sultanpur, Dharmendra Yadav from Azamgarh, Laliteshpati Tripathi of Trinamool Congress from Bhadohi, Ujjwal Raman Singh from Allahabad, and former Maharashtra home minister Kripashankar Singh from Jaunpur.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Congress president Ajay Rai are vying for Varanasi, while Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel is contesting from Mirzapur, and SBSP’s Arvind Rajbhar from Ghosi. The NISHAD Party also holds significant influence in this region.

”As Purvanchal heads into the crucial sixth phase of elections, the political stakes are higher than ever. With alliances being tested and every party deploying its top strategies and candidates, the outcome here will play a decisive role in the overall electoral results. Both the NDA and INDIA Bloc are leaving no stone unturned to secure a win in this politically vital region,” said Ramesh Kumar Singh, a local journalist in Varanasi.

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