In eastern UP, the percentage of MBCs is impressive among OBCs to the extent that their vote can influence the outcome to a great extent.The seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections will see eastern Uttar Pradesh, or Purvanchal as it is known, vote to elect a government at the Centre. As the BJP, SP-BSP and the Congress look for a triumphant finish, one social group which will decide the fate of candidates in the region is the Most Backward Caste (MBC).
In Uttar Pradesh, OBCs constitute a major portion of the population at 43.56 per cent. The MBCs constitute around 10.22 per cent within the OBC category. In eastern UP, the percentage of MBCs is impressive among OBCs to the extent that their vote can influence the outcome.
Given their political importance, all political parties are trying to mobilise them in their favour. Communities like Saithwar, Bind, Gadariya, Nishad, Prajapati, Teli, Sahu, Hahar, Kashyap, Kachhi, Kushwaha, Rajbhar, Nai, Badhayi, Panchal, Dhiman, Loniya, Noniya, Gole Thakur, Loniya Chauhan, Murao, Fakir, Lohar, Koeri, Mali, Saini, Bharbhuja and Turaha are important castes in the MBCs.
During Rajnath Singh’s chief ministership, the BJP government had formed a committee to look into the empowerment of the MBCs. Later, Mulayam Singh Yadav as CM took the initiative to bring the 17 castes under MBC into the Scheduled Caste category, fulfilling their long-pending demand. Interestingly, the various castes under MBC voted for the BJP during the 2014 general and 2017 assembly elections.
In the ongoing election, all important players – the BJP, SP-BSP-RLD and the Congress — are trying hard to woo the MBCs. Constituencies that have a sizeable presence of MBC voters are Sant Kabir Nagar, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Salempur, Varanasi, Ghazipur and Baliya among others.
Political parties have also struck alliances and distributed tickets to strategically court the MBCs. The BJP formed an alliance with the Rashtriya Nishad Party led by Sanjay Nishad and offered the Sant Kabir Nagar ticket to his son Praveen Nishad. After breaking off the alliance with the Bharatiya Samaj Party, led by Om Prakash Rajbhar who is still a cabinet minister Yogi Adityanath government, the BJP offered seats to Rajbhar leaders in the Purvanchal region to retain the support of these social groups.
The Congress is also targeting the Saithwars, who are in large numbers in Purvanchal, by fielding RPN Singh, who hails from the kingdom of Mall Raja in the area. The Samajwadi Party is trying to revive ties forged during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s leadership with 17 MBC castes, giving them important party posts and promising to fight for SC status for these 17 castes.
Going by the popular mood on the ground, these communities may see a fragmentation of their votes. It was seen during the 2014 parliamentary and 2017 state elections that a majority of the MBC votes moved towards the BJP, but the same may not be the case this time. In some constituencies, these social groups are deciding their votes based on the candidates’ caste. Their choices seem to take into account caste and not the political party.
Though the BJP is trying to retain this group to repeat its 2014 success, political analysts are of the opinion that the consolidation won’t be as strong this time around.