The Samajwadi Party (SP) attempts to overcome its status as a Yadav-dominated party ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. Its leadership is now working overtime to reach out to the non-Yadav OBC bloc, and it has formed electoral alliances with smaller caste-based parties to expand even further.
On August 29, SP State President Naresh Uttam Patel launched the “Kisan Naujawan Patel Yatra,” which is aimed at the numerically strong “Kurmi” voters who have backed the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last three elections, including the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 Assembly election (BJP).
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Mr Patel, a Kurmi, is reaching out to these sectors, capitalizing on the present farmers’ agitation against the Modi administration. “The Modi government is torn on whether or not to conduct a caste census. Today, even the reservation policy is in jeopardy. Farmers are not receiving the minimum support price that was promised to them (MSP). And their legitimate demands are greeted with repression and lathi-charge.
Aside from that, the party began OBC ‘sammelans’ on August 9. The first round of these ‘sammelans,’ or conversations, is in central Uttar Pradesh and Bundelkhand, with the Purvanchal region to follow.
While remaining independent of the Congress, the SP has formed alliances with smaller caste-based parties such as Keshav Dev Maurya’s Mahan Dal and Sanjay Chauhan’s Janwadi Socialist Party.
Mr Chauhan’s party has a substantial following among the Chauhan group, a severely disadvantaged OBC caste with a significant representation in eastern Uttar Pradesh. After leaving the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2008, Mr Maurya founded the Mahan Dal. The Maurya group accounts for around 6% of the total voters in the state. Even though both parties are minor players (the Mahan Dal received 0.1 per cent of the vote in the previous State election), the SP hopes that having them on board will widen its appeal.
Non-Yadav OBCs, who broke away from the Yadav-dominated umbrella of social justice politics, have formed the basis of BJP politics in the state. The consolidation of these non-Yadav OBCs under the “Grand Hindu Identity” is one of the critical reasons for the BJP’s spectacular rise in electoral performance from 47 seats in the 2012 Assembly election, where they received only 15% of the vote, to 312 seats in the 2017 election, where they received nearly 40% of the vote. His dissatisfaction is palpable, as even SP leaders admit that the BJP’s strategy of isolating the Yadavs has worked.
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But we are confident that in the seven years after 2014, the backward castes have realized the BJP’s fraud,” said Rajendra Chaudhary, the SP’s primary spokesperson. The SP is particularly concerned about the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections when the Rashtriya Janata Dal narrowly lost to the BJP-JD(U) coalition by a hair due to counter-mobilization against a hypothetical ‘Yadav’ party coming to power.