After Ramcharitmanas, SP is now playing on caste census, why tension to BJP?

A controversial statement was made on ‘Ramcharitmanas’ by Bihar Education Minister Chandrashekhar and then by Samajwadi Party MLC Swami Prasad Maurya. The ‘Ramcharitmanas’ controversy that started from Bihar now appears to be an attempt to woo OBC votes in UP. With the demand to remove “controversial verses” from Ramcharitmanas, the focus has now shifted to caste census. According to political analysts, this is an attempt to win over OBC and Dalit votes. The opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) of Uttar Pradesh is openly playing on this issue.

BJP had to change its stand?

SP President Akhilesh Yadav was the first to raise this demand in UP. However, most BJP leaders remained silent on the issue. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was of the opinion that the government would stick to the norms of the general census. However, talking to reporters in Unnao on Friday, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said that he was in favor of caste-based census in the state. The Samajwadi Party is trying its best to project itself as a party of Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Perhaps this is the reason why the big leader of BJP has reacted on this matter.

The UP deputy CM said, “They (SP) were silent when UP itself was ruled by the SP and the Congress was ruling at the Center with the support of the SP. The demand they are currently raising is just an anti-Modi campaign. But the public rejects such demands. Our government is working in the interest of backward, dalits, scheduled castes and poor people of the general category.

Compulsion to keep OBC voters happy!

Political experts believe that before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the SP is intensifying its efforts to woo the backward. In view of this, the statement of Deputy CM Maurya may be compulsion to keep the OBC voters happy. The SP’s aggressive stand has forced Maurya to support the caste census. To understand the parties’ renewed focus on OBC voters, one needs to look at the results of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2009, the BJP and its alliance partner RLD got 20.27% votes in UP. Only 15 seats were won. While SP got 23 seats with 23.26% votes. BSP won 20 seats with 27.42% votes while Congress got 18.25% vote share and won 21 seats. These results show that all parties got almost equal OBC votes that year.

State OBC Welfare Minister and BJP OBC Morcha State President Narendra Kashyap has attacked the SP on the issue of caste census. “Their alliance (with the Congress) failed because the issues of caste and religion did not help them,” he said. That’s why SP is now trying to create confusion among the people. He has started making commentaries on Ramcharitmanas.

Why BJP remained silent on caste census?

During the assembly elections, the caste census was on the agenda of the SP-led opposition alliance, with party chief Akhilesh Yadav promising to start the survey within three months of coming to power. However, after the elections, the SP put this demand on the backburner to a great extent. The BJP did not respond to the demand at the time of the assembly elections. One reason for this was also considered that the data of different castes, especially OBC groups, coming out of caste census can give new life to regional parties. Also, this issue may give rise to a demand for reshaping the OBC quota in central government jobs and educational institutions.

BJP spoiled everyone’s game in 2014

Months before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Amit Shah came in as in-charge of UP and with the help of former CM Kalyan Singh, understood the nuances of the “politics of OBC and MBC mixed Hindutva” in UP. BJP’s strategy to consolidate OBC votes worked wonders and the party doubled its vote share compared to 2009 by winning a record 71 Lok Sabha seats in UP (42.63% votes). BJP’s ally Apna Dal also won two seats. While the BSP failed to open its account, the SP won five seats and the Congress two. Something similar happened in the UP assembly elections as well. In 2012, the SP won 224 seats (29.15% of the vote), while the BJP won 47 seats (15% of the vote). The BSP (25.91%) and the Congress (11.63%) had to be content with 80 and 28 seats, respectively.

BJP has repeated the feat

However, after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the then organization secretary Sunil Bansal and the then UP in-charge Om Mathur focused on the “OBC plus Hindutva formula”. The party named Keshav Prasad Maurya as its UP unit chief and gave more tickets to OBC and Dalit candidates. As a result, in 2017 the BJP got an absolute majority with 312 seats (39.67% of the vote). The SP-Congress alliance could win only 47 seats (21.82%) and the BSP won 19 (22.23%). Since then, the BJP has repeated the feat twice in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Now SP is playing freely

The caste census demand returned to UP politics last month after SP leader and former state minister Swami Prasad Maurya’s remarks on Ramcharitmanas. Akhilesh did not pull Maurya but inducted the senior leader into the party’s national executive. When asked about Maurya’s comments, the SP chief linked the controversy and the caste census demand by saying that he would ask Maurya to join the movement for caste census in the state. Political pundits believe that SP’s demand for caste census has forced BJP’s OBC leader Keshav Prasad Maurya to speak on the issue, but it is clear that the central leadership has given him the go-ahead on this issue. The battle to win the OBC vote bank is about to intensify.

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