In Uttar Pradesh, where elections are fought and won on complex caste combinations, the BJP plans to hold a series of OBC sammelans (meetings) across the state. As many as 70 OBC meetings are planned in the state in the months of September and October.
With the avowed goal of winning over 350 of the total 403 seats, and 50 per cent vote share in the Assembly elections early next year, the BJP plans to highlight the initiatives taken by the centre for benefit of the OBCs. These include reservation for the OBCs within the all-India quota for NEET, granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes, welfare schemes for weavers, fishermen and farmers hat have improved the lives of OBC communities.
The party has given charge of organising these meetings to deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and state chief Swatantra Dev Singh, both OBC leaders. Other senior OBC leaders of the party, including ministers in the union Cabinet, will also participate in the meetings. The OBCs or the Other Backward Classes comprise over 45 per cent of votes in the politically crucial state; of which about nine per cent are Yadavs, who traditionally stay with the Samajwadi Party (SP). The fight is for the remaining 36 per cent votes.
“The non-Yadav OBC consolidation had largely contributed to BJP’s big win in the 2017 Assembly elections and also in 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the state. And we intend on keeping it that way. With SP and BSP both eyeing the OBC vote bank, we are banking on the Luv-Kush formula,” reveals a BJP leader.
The Luv-Kush formula was forged by Nitish Kumar in Bihar to take on the Muslim-Yadav support base of Lalu Prasad Yadav. This was basically to bring together the communities of Koeris, who claim descent from Kush and the Kurmis, believed to be descendants of his twin Luv – both sons of Lord Rama.
In the context of UP, Swatantra Dev is a Kurmi, the second largest and influential OBC community in the state after the Yadavs, and followed by the Rajbhars. The Kurmis comprise about 7.5 per cent of the state’s population and have a major political role to play in Purvanchal or eastern UP, especially in Pratapgarh, Prayagraj, Sonbhadra, and Mirzapur.
“From Basti to Ballia, the Kurmi vote can make a difference in more than 50 assembly seats,” explains the BJP leader.
Keshav Prasad Maurya, who led the party to victory in 2017 assembly elections as the state president, had managed to pull the OBC communities like the Kushwahas, Mauryas, Shakyas and Sainis -- who earlier used to vote for the BSP – towards the BJP. The party is again banking on the two leaders to take the party to victory.
“Yogi Adityanath remains the face of the party but the task of these two leaders is clearly cut out – to be Yogi ji’s two arms and mobilise the OBCs,” says a BJP leader from UP.