It is well known that caste equations play a significant role in grabbing power in Uttar Pradesh.

Keeping aside the Modi wave, these equations have proven themselves important in every election. Which is precisely why, right after the Lok Sabha elections, the Adityanath-led government has approved the inclusion of 17 communities belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the Scheduled Castes (SCs) list.

The success of the move, which is being viewed as one to gain political mileage, will first be tested in the next Assembly elections.

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What’s on Yogi’s Radar?

Following the Lok Sabha elections, 12 seats in Uttar Pradesh are set to face by-polls. These seats include Govindnagar, Lucknow Cantt, Tundla, Zaidpur, Hamirpur, Balaha, Gangoh, Iglas, Pratapgarh, Rampur and Jalalpur.

Despite their landslide victory in the General Elections, the BJP is well aware of the importance of Assembly by-polls, thanks to the embarrassment faced by the party upon losing them in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana.

So, with an eye on the upcoming by-polls, the BJP primarily is aiming for two things with this manoeuvre:

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  • Consolidation of BJP within the SCs
  • Cornering 14 percent votes by including OBCs in the SC list

Making up for the Loss of Omprakash Rajbhar

Another factor that is being billed as a potential reason behind the move is NDA’s loss of Omprakash Rajbhar and his party SBSP. Rajbhar’s party played a crucial rule in the BJP’s success in the 2017 State Eections, as they together went on to put up a strong performance in Purvanchal (Eastern Uttar Pradesh).

More importantly, the BJP was able to make inroads within the extremely backward castes. The communities which had thus far backed the SP or BSP, threw their weight behind the BJP for the first time, and the role of Rajbhar’s party was undeniable in the development.

However, as Rajbhar grew more ambitious, he looked for greater returns from the BJP. The feud that started off between MPs and MLAs reached a stage where the top BJP leadership got involved and eventually turned Rajbhar insignificant ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

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Gaining Ground Ahead of 2022 Assembly Elections

The BJP think tank is well aware that the winning margin in Assembly elections is often a few thousand, unlike that in Lok Sabha elections where the margin is in lakhs.

The importance of each vote is greater in state elections, thus magnifying the significance of complex caste equations.

The BJP is hoping to garner majority of the 14 percent votes belonging to these 17 caste groups.

However, the BJP should expect to have it rather easy in the by-polls. Of the 12 seats that go to by-polls, the BJP already holds 10 while the SP and BSP have one each in their kitty.

Despite its strong position in the state, the BJP is looking to send a message to the SCs, hoping to benefit from the move in upcoming state elections in Jharkhand, Haryana and Delhi. It also goes without saying that the move will help the party gain ground ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.

The Arithmetic of Extremely Backward Castes

  • The 17 caste groups in question (Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kevat, Kashyap, Bhar, Dhivar, Batham, Macchuara, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Kahar, Kumhar, Dhimar, Manjhi, Turha and Gaur) constitute 13.63 percent of UP’s population.
  • These caste groups can decide the fate of elections
  • These castes have been demanding to be included in SC list for a long time

From Mulayam to Akhilesh, Everyone Has Made Efforts

The move to include these caste groups in SC list isn’t a new one. In 2005, the then chief minister of the state Mulayam Singh Yadav took a similar initiative, but the High Court stayed the decision and the Mayawati government rejected the proposal in 2007.

In December 2016, just ahead of the last state election, Akhilesh Yadav too made a similar effort and got the proposal passed by the Cabinet.

The move was notified too, after informing the Centre. However, the move first got challenged in the High Court and got stuck with the Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment.

This article was originally published by Quint Hindi