Samajwadis and Mayawati resurrect axe-wielding Brahmin to counter Yogi
The heartland’s Mandal parties appear to be vying to hold up Parashuram as an alternative to the BJP’s Ram and woo the Brahmin community that is frustrated with the government of Kshatriya leader Yogi Adityanath.
Legend has it that the battleaxe-wielding Parashuram, a Brahmin and the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, had gone on Kshatriya-killing sprees 21 times and had challenged the young Ram -– a Kshatriya and Vishnu’s seventh avatar — to a faceoff.
On Saturday, the Samajwadi Party declared it would install Parashuram statues in all 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, starting with a “108 feet high” statue in Lucknow.
The announcement came at a time the Brahmins’ longstanding aversion to the “anti-Brahmin” Adityanath had deepened over the unsolved assassinations of several Brahmin Hindutva leaders and state police’s “fake encounter” killing of gangster Vikas Dubey and five of his fellow Brahmin henchmen in July.
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, who had in 2007 won power by forging a Dalit-Brahmin alliance that has long come apart, was quick to react to the Samajwadi announcement.
On Sunday, she castigated the Samajwadis as “fake sympathisers of Brahmins” and promised to set up hospitals named after Parashuram as well as his statues across the state if voted to power in the 2022 Assembly elections.
“The Bahujan Samaj Party government will build hospitals and guesthouses in Uttar Pradesh in the name of Parashuram, the symbol of the faith of Brahmins. Similar programmes will be implemented in the names of heroes of every community,” she said.
Since the killing of Dubey and his men, the legend of Parashuram has been cropping up in private conversations among Brahmins, who have been stressing that the fiery avatar was the “original Ram”.
Parashuram was named “Ram” by his parents, with “parashu” (battleaxe) later prefixed to his name because of his exploits with the weapon.
Certain versions of the Ramayan claim a meeting between the two avatars during which Ram successfully met a challenge set by Parashuram, who admitted defeat.
Neither Mayawati nor the Samajwadis have ever before shown any great affection for Parashuram. The Yadavs, who have traditionally been the Samajwadi mainstay along with Muslims, are worshippers of Krishna while the Dalits who form the BSP vote bank have their own pantheon of saints and leaders.
Some political observers believe that the two parties’ newfound love for Parashuram also reflects an effort to counter the mileage the BJP is likely to gain from its Ram temple push in Ayodhya.
Saturday’s Samajwadi announcement had come from former state minister Abhishek Mishra, a Brahmin, whom party chief Akhilesh Yadav had sent to Jaipur to place the order for the stone statues.
“People should not see our move as a political gambit. We believe that some heroes of India should receive due respect,” he told reporters.
Mishra said his party had formed a Parashuram Chetna Peeth Trust to execute the statue programme.
Manoj Pandey, a former Samajwadi minister and a Brahmin, said: “This idea (of Parashuram statues) first came to members of the Prabuddh Mahasabha, an organisation of enlightened citizens that I head. I suggest that people stop looking at the matter from a political angle.”
The Mahasabha was formed in 2016 to try and bring the Brahmins under the Samajwadi fold.
Attacking the “casteist” Samajwadis on Sunday, Mayawati recalled how they had “opposed” her when, during her stints in power, she built statues, monuments and memorials to Dalit leaders including Jyotiba Phule, Narayana Guru, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram.
“They should have installed Parashuram statues when they were in power. We will install bigger Parashuram statues than theirs,” she told a news conference.
Mayawati had, however, also got her own statues installed at several places in Lucknow and Noida — one reason for her annoyed Brahmin allies to dump her in the 2012 elections that the Samajwadis won.
Brijesh Pathak, minister for rural engineering in the Adityanath government, had on Saturday dismissed the Samajwadi statue programme.
“Those who mistreated the Brahmins in the past are now trying to woo them in the name of Parashuram. People will reject the casteist party in the elections,” he had said.
Brahmins’ anger with Adityanath had been simmering since the assassination of BJP leader Rakesh Sharma in Hapur last September and that of Hindu Samaj Party leader Kamlesh Tiwari in Lucknow in October.
Their fury boiled over when the police eliminated Dubey and his gang members days after they had ambushed and killed eight cops.
Mayawati had at the time said the “encounter” killings had sown “fear in the mind of the Brahmins”.
The Samajwadis have also decided to build statues to 1857 hero Mangal Pandey in every district of the state.