Nisar Siddiqui | Caravan Daily
VARANASI — “Vidhayak Ji ko vote chahiye Yadav aur Dalit ka. Vikas karne ki bari aayegi to Musalman ka karenge (Mr MLA wants Yadavs and Dalits to vote for him but it comes to development, he will favour Muslims),” said a Dalit voter during the Holi celebration organized at the residence of Sakaldeeha (Chandauli) MLA, Prabhu Narayan Singh Yadav. As Yadav smiled at this jibe, the Dalit voter asserted his point indignantly. The sentiment of this voter is not an occasional and isolated feeling of a Dalit. Such a mindset is prevailing throughout the Chandauli, a district in the vicinity of Varanasi.
Resentment among Dalits and Yadavs, especially Yadavs, is palpable. Even after over a month of the SP-BSP alliance and finalisation of Lok Sabha candidates, the Yadav community doesn’t seem committed to voting for the alliance. In Maharajganj village near Rampur tehsil in Chandauli, the entire village population comprised of OBC castes like Yadavs and Bind. After talking to the Yadavs, it became clear that they are undecided on their support for SP. Some Yadavs admit of their support for the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav but the majority seems non-committed. “This election is not to make Akhilesh Yadav the chief minister of UP. This is about Prime Minister of India,” said one of the voters.
“This election is for Narendra Modi. We will vote for Akhilesh in 2022 Assembly polls,” told another Yadav voter while talking to Caravan Daily. But when asked whether strengthening BJP in 2019 will eventually boost the chances of the saffron party in 2022 polls, most remained silent. This attitude of the Yadavs is confusing the Dalit voters in the state too. Anuragh Singh, a Dalit activist from Auraiyya, says that the Dalits, especially Jatavs, are crystal clear in their support to the alliance. “But we can’t say this about Yadavs. They are still enamoured by the illusion created by the Modi-mania. They think that during the five years of Modi rule, Muslims were on the backfoot,” said Singh.
BSP workers in Ghazipur district are very worried about Yadav votes. The seat is likely to go to former MP, Afzal Ansari, brother of politician and mafia leader Mukhtar Ansari. Afzal’s supporters are confident of his candidature and have even started their poll campaign. But they are gripped with fear. They are extremely unsure of the Yadav support. One of the major reasons for Yadav resentment against Ansari is Akhilesh Yadav’s unfavourable opinion about the Ansari brothers. He had also spurned the merger of Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal into SP two years ago. Later, Ansari brothers joined BSP and thus earned anger of local Yadav chieftains.
There is so much fear among supporters of Ansaris that they expect a revolt by the local Yadavs if Afzal is awarded Lok Sabha ticket. Amir Ahmed, a political analyst from Ghazipur, says that Union minister Manoj Sinha, the incumbent MP, has done a lot of development work in the area. “It has made him popular in the constituency. Plus, if Afzal Ansari gets the BSP ticket, BJP will have communal ammunition to fire against him and polarise votes in the area. This way, they might drag Yadavs into the saffron fold,” said Ahmed.
In Varanasi, the constituency of PM Modi has around 1.5 lakh Yadav votes. Yadavs belonging to the city areas have not traditionally been as much Samajwadi as Yadav voters of rural areas. This is evident from the fact in 2014 elections, the SP candidate occupied the fifth position and its candidate had even lost his deposit, thereby implying that the Yadavs had supported BJP in 2014. Even platforms like social media are abuzz with speculations that Yadav votes will go to BJP in places where BSP fielded its candidate. In addition, wherever SP, BSP have fielded Muslim candidates, Yadavs are likely to vote for BJP.
Local pracharaks of Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP’s local cells are active to entice Yadav and OBC voters with their anti-Muslim propaganda. Zakir Ali, an activist who has studied the RSS campaign among Dalits and OBCs, says that earlier RSS workers used to convince Dalits and Yadavs that their votes for Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav ultimately translates to the empowerment of Muslims. “Now, they are saying that Dalits and Yadav votes will help Muslims sit in the Parliament, following which Muslims will ultimately establish draconian Shariat Law in the country,” said Ali.
Analysts in the state fear that a section of the Yadav and Dalit voters may get trapped in the RSS propaganda.
Nisar Siddiqui is a research scholar at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Views are personal. For comments and feedback, please write to [email protected]