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Upper castes left in lurch
- Cong to mull joining UP govt after formal invite; CM says sorry for 1999 ‘mistakes’

New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Dalits have Mayavati, the Yadavs Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Jats Ajit Singh, the Lodh-Rajputs Kalyan Singh and the Thakurs a choice between Amar Singh and Raja Bhaiyya. But what happens to the Brahmins and the Banias of Uttar Pradesh' “They feel orphaned,” said a Congress leader.

The first cabinet constituted by Mulayam Singh is the state’s first cabinet without a single Brahmin. The only upper caste representative, Kusum Rai, is a Bhumihar. The Samajwadi Party-led government has resurrected the “Majgar” coalition that Chaudhury Charan Singh had experimented with in the seventies and eighties. “Majgar” included Muslims, Ahirs (Yadavs), Jats, Gujjars and Rajputs.

The only difference now is the injection of the Lodh-Rajputs, who were politically dormant in Charan Singh’s time and got awakened when Kalyan became the chief minister of the first BJP government in Uttar Pradesh in 1991. The Lodh-Rajputs have replaced the Gujjars — both represent backward castes from western Uttar Pradesh — but political observers believe the character of the social alliance is the same as “Majgar”.

“It is an axis of the lathi-wielding castes, the castes who will not think twice about using muscle to capture political power. All these castes had felt shackled when the BSP’s Dalits ruled the roost,” said the Congress leader.

But the Brahmins, who ruled Lucknow for decades through legendary families and cult figures like the Tripathis (Kamlapati Tripathi), Bahugunas (Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna), Pants (Gobind Vallabh Pant), Dixits (Uma Shankar Dixit), Shripati Mishra and Narayan Dutt Tiwari, have lost their place in the sun.

This is despite the fact that numerically they are as big a group as the Yadavs, making up nine per cent of the population. Their percentage was higher until the creation of Uttaranchal, which is dominated by Brahmins and Thakurs.

Observers attribute the loss of Brahmin political power to the state’s bifurcation. But the truth is that barring the hill districts of Kumaon and Garhwal, which constitute Uttaranchal, Brahmins had started getting marginalised in the post-Mandal phase that saw the rise of Mulayam Singh, Kalyan and Mayavati.

Tiwari’s migration to Uttaranchal left not only the Congress but Uttar Pradesh bereft of a Brahmin leader. Neither the BJP nor the Congress can name one who can step into his shoes. Congress sources said though their legislature party leader Pramod Tiwari was a successful legislator who never lost a poll, his influence was confined to a small pocket around Allahabad.

Besides, he seemed “content” to play second fiddle to Mulayam Singh and be part of his dispensation, they said.

The BJP’s plight was not happier. Its former state president Kalraj Mishra — considered the party’s best known Brahmin in Uttar Pradesh after Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi — was thought of as a good organisation hand but not a charismatic leader.

With Joshi firmly in central politics, state BJP sources said they would have to “seriously” zero in on a Brahmin leader if they were to keep the caste votes with them. Neither of the two persons the BJP regards as “leadership material” — Rajnath Singh and Vinay Katiyar — is a Brahmin.

Sources felt projecting them might not pay political dividends. “The Thakurs are going to thank not Rajnath but Mulayam for releasing Raja Bhaiyya from jail, and as for Katiyar, he has not been able to show himself up as a Kurmi leader. He’s associated more with Hindutva.”

Rajnath is coming in for criticism in the BJP for not just being “principally responsible” for breaking the BSP alliance but also “creating an impression” that his party is happy riding piggyback on Mulayam Singh.

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