//BSP, now the party for Brahmins

BSP, now the party for Brahmins

DHIRENDRA K. JHA, The Telegraph , 5 March 2007

New Delhi, March 4: The Bahujan Samaj Party’s social engineering is about to enter a new phase.

The party, which was born as a reaction to upper-caste oppression, is set to field a record number of Brahmins in the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Although the BSP is yet to formally announce its final list of candidates, it is reliably learnt that 89 of the 403 party nominees are Brahmins. No other party — not even those claiming to represent upper-caste Hindus — has ever fielded so many Brahmins in the state where caste considerations influence voting patterns.

“Our objective is to send a concrete message across the state that we are not just a party of Dalits but of Brahmins, too. By giving out tickets to such a large number of Brahmin candidates, Mayavati has tried to make the upper castes feel that she values their votes,” a senior BSP leader said.

Sources said the decision to field such a large number of Brahmins is part of the BSP chief’s strategy to reap the maximum benefit out of her party’s growing influence over upper-caste voters while keeping her Dalit base intact.

“Neither the BJP nor the Congress has ever given so many tickets to Brahmins in the state,” the BSP leader said.

On the face of it, Mayavati’s generosity towards Brahmins might appear a little out of proportion. She has offered them nearly 23 per cent of the total party tickets though Brahmins account for only 9 per cent of heartland voters.

But, the sources pointed out, this 9 per cent could turn out to be crucial for Mayavati who seems to have realised that to grab power, she requires a “definite add-on” to her core base. In the BSP chief’s scheme of things, Brahmins could play this role.

For quite some time, the Brahmins have been showing signs of shifting towards the BSP, thus increasing the prospect of broadening the Dalit party’s social base. Sensing the change in the air, Mayavati, too, the sources said, started emphasising on setting up a caste-less society — “Samatamulak Samaj” — which would accommodate not only Dalits but also upper sections of the society. This was a complete departure from the party’s original troika of enemies — Brahmins, Baniyas and Thakurs.

Mayavati has justified her plans to associate with Brahmins, saying whoever deplores the caste system and helps her in empowering the downtrodden is welcome into her party. “It was also being felt that the Brahmins could be convincingly added to Mayavati’s kitty of voters if candidates belonging to this caste were considerable in number,” the BSP leader said.