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UP’s psychedelic play of castes

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It looks like that the SP-Congress alliance, with its eye on capturing the Muslim vote, would push the BJP to try for the consolidation of the so-called Hindus cutting across caste, making it into a Hindu-Muslim divide.

There is visible desperation in Akhilesh Yadav reaching out to Congress

Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

Tactics are very important, and battles need to be won if the war is to be won. Seen from this point of view, the Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akhilesh Yadav, the Gen-Next leader of the party and the Congress, unofficially led by Nehru-Gandhi Gen-Next, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, agreeing to be poll partners in the February-March assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh sounds practical and pragmatic. The SP under patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has been an eminently anti-Congress party, which was seen as the face of upper caste domination in the caste-riven state. But times change, and so do generations. It is legitimate for both SP and Congress to reboot their agendas as it were, and to find commonalities in place of the earlier divergences and opposition.

It is possible that Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi/Priyanka Vadra may want to sit and rethink their priorities, and bring about a political alliance between the Yadav-dominant Other Backward Class/Caste (OBC) SP and the so-called upper caste/upper crust base of the Congress. Of course, the two sides are in fact looking to the nearly 19 per cent Muslim vote, which goes under the neutral term of “minorities”. The other major group in the state’s hierarchical social/caste stratification is that of Dalits, who form a solid bloc under the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Mayawati.

The SP, the BSP and the Congress, as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), adopt the politically correct stance that they do not recognize caste divisions, and that they appeal to all social segments, that is caste segments. That is why, BSP gives enough seats to Muslims and Brahmins, and the SP gives a nod to Dalit presence. The Congress is looking to the Dalits and the Muslims, apart from the upper castes led by Brahmins and Rajputs. The BJP pretends as though Muslims do not exist while it tries to woo the Dalits, the Most Backward Classes/Castes (MBCs) and the upper castes. The caste combinations in the political calculus of each party make for a nice psychedelic graphic mix.

It looks like that the SP-Congress alliance with its eye on capturing the Muslim vote would push the BJP to try for the consolidation of the so-called Hindus, cutting across caste— upper, middle, backward, oppressed—lines, making it into a Hindu-Muslim divide. But the BJP will be hard put to enthuse the different segments of the Hindu society as one because the idea of Ram temple in Ayodhya does not enthuse the majority community. The BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to shed its “brahminical” cultural affiliation and reach out to other caste groups, willing to risk losing its upper caste base. It was the BJP tidal wave that swept all before it in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and it seems to have traumatised the SP and the Congress, if not the BSP.

But the best laid plans of all the parties might go awry. Brahmins may not go with the BJP, BSP or the Congress. But it cannot be the case. They have to choose one among the three. The Brahmins can hope to be part of the power structure in a SP-Congress alliance, and the Dalits too can base their choice by voting for the alliance. Similarly, Muslims will have to choose from among the SP, BSP and the Congress. Psephologists and political realists describe these choices under the rubric of “tactical voting”.

Idealists are sure to be saddened by the caste battle lines and would be asking whether Uttar Pradesh can break out of the caste crucible. The truth might be that a significant number of people, especially the youth, might be opting out of the caste mould and voting for parties and candidates who lie beyond. It appears that something of this kind might have happened in the state during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when quite a large number of people did not vote along caste lines and therefore voted with an open mind, willing to give the BJP under Modi to govern at the centre. Will they be willing to do the same in an assembly election which means changing power equations nearer home?

The SP and the Congress would want to pre-empt the out-of-the-(caste)-box voting choice of the Muslims especially. But it would seem that the Muslim youth have a mind of their own, and they are not willing to vote on the jaded issue of secularism vs communalism. Their demands are different, and it is for economic opportunity. If they refuse to vote for Modi and the BJP, it will not be because they consider Modi/BJP to be anti-Muslim, but they would judge them on their failure to deliver on the economic promises. The Dalits are unlikely to abandon the BSP/Mayawati banner because they know that victory is politically feasible with the right caste, and not political, alliances.

Lead picture: It looks like that the SP-Congress alliance, with its eye on capturing the Muslim vote, would push the BJP to try for the consolidation of the so-called Hindus cutting across caste, making it into a Hindu-Muslim divide. Photos: UNI

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Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi’s security cordon simply vanished, says Omar Abdullah; J&K police claim didn’t know of such large gathering

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Omar Abdullah joined Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra from Banihal in Kashmir on Friday

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Friday alleged that he’s witness that outer ring of the cordon maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir police “simply vanished” minutes after Rahul Gandhi marched into Kashmir with his Bharat Jodo Yatra via Banihal earlier today.

The former J&K chief minister wrote in a tweet he was looking forward to the 11-kilometre trek but unfortunately it had to be cancelled.

The yatra was stopped earlier today near Qazigund, the gateway to Kashmir valley, due to an alleged breach of security and mismanagement of crowd by the erstwhile state’s administration.

Congress leaders alleged that Rahul Gandhi after crossing Qazigund, started his march towards south Kashmir’s Vessu, but the party workers noticed that the outer cordon maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir police, was lifted all of a sudden.

However, the J&K Police has refuted the allegations of a security lapse. In a series of tweets, the police claimed that organizers of the march had not told them that such a large gathering would be joining them from Banihal and full security arrangements were in place and deployments were done as per SOPs.

The police added that they were not consulted by organizers before halting the yatra, stressing that rest of the march went peacefully and maintained that foolproof security will be provided when the trek resumes.

Earlier, the Congress temporarily called off the yatra, accusing the local police and administration of crowd mismanagement and security lapse.

A senior Congress leader alleged that there was crowd mismanagement along the yatra route approved by the security apparatus.

Rahul Gandhi, who has planned to conclude his marathon Bharat Jodo Yatra with a grand rally in Srinagar on January 30 said that it was the responsibility of the Jammu and Kashmir administration to provide them security while hoping that rest of the yatra is provide with adequate security.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the party is holding discussions with the Jammu and Kashmir administration to ensure no further security lapses occur for the remainder of the march.

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Tripura Election 2023: CPI(M) announces candidates for 43 seats, Congress will contest on 13

The 2023 Tripura Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held in Tripura on February 16, 2023 to elect all 60 members of the Tripura Legislative Assembly.

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Tripura Election 2023

Tripura’s main opposition CPI(M) has declared candidates for 43 seats and kept 13 seats reserved for the Congress. Addressing a press conference, Left Front convenor Narayan said that their main objective is to oust the BJP from power. He added that they came under one banner only to oust the BJP and drive the party out of the state.

“We appeal to all anti-BJP secular and democratic forces to come together to oust the saffron party,” said Narayan. He even added that this time the party has introduced 24 more new faces, who will be contesting for the first time in this election. However, this time many veteran leaders from CPI(M) like former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, former Finance Minister Bhanu Lal Saha, Shahid Choudhary, Badal Choudhary, Jashbir Tripura, Tapan Chakraborty and Mabasar Ali have got relief.

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For the Tripura Elections 2023, out of these 60 seats, CPI(M) will contest on 43 seats, Congress on 13, CPI on 1, RSP on 1 seat and Forward Bloc on 1 while an independent candidate will contest on 1 seat. Six sitting candidates will contest in this election, while the CPI(M) state committee secretary will contest from Sabroom assembly constituency.

Kausik Chanda will now contest from Dhanpur assembly constituency, which was the home constituency of former chief minister Manik Sarkar.

For the unversed, the 2023 Tripura Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held in Tripura on February 16, 2023 to elect all 60 members of the Tripura Legislative Assembly. The tenure of Tripura Legislative Assembly is scheduled to end on 22 March 2023. The previous state election was held in February 2018 and BJP, Biplab Kumar Deb was was sworn in as the new CM, while the saffron party had formed its government in Tripura.  

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Rahul Gandhi’s march not for personal image: Omar Abdullah joins Bharat Jodo Yatra

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, Friday, joined Rahul Gandhi as the Congress MP’s Bharat Jodo Yatra made its way into Kashmir via Banihal.

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Omar Abdullah joins Bharat Jodo Yatra

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, Friday, joined Rahul Gandhi as the Congress MP’s Bharat Jodo Yatra made its way into Kashmir via Banihal.

Speaking on the occasion, Abdullah pointed out that the marathon march was not a PR stunt to give Rahul Gandhi’s image a makeover but an honest effort to change the situation and atmosphere across the country.

The National Conference leader, however, declined to make a comment on the Congress stand on the reinstating of the erstwhile state’s special status, adding that he joined the march not for any individual’s image but for the image of the entire country.

Omar Abdullah maintained that Rahul Gandhi had no personal reasons behind the yatra but to counter the hatred and efforts to stir communal tensions and target minorities in the country.

Taking a jibe at the Narendra Modi-led regime’s efforts to strengthen ties with Arab Muslim nations, Abdullah said that the BJP government might be making friends with Arab nations but there’s none is currently representing India’s largest minority in the nation’s parliament.

Abdullah rued the fact that this might be the first instance wherein ruling party doesn’t have a single member of parliament in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha from the Muslim community.

On Congress stand on the abrogation of Article 370, Abdullah said that they will fight the revocation in court and felt that theirs is a very strong case.

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On Monday, Rahul Gandhi said that the demand for statehood is Jammu and Kashmir’s biggest issue and party will use its “full power” to see that its reinstated.

Gandhi, who was speaking to a gathering assembled at Jammu’s Satwari Chowk during the last leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, noted that Jammu and Kashmir has the highest level of unemployment in India and stressed that statehood for the erstwhile state was the biggest issue.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra started from Kanyakumari on September 7, entered Jammu and Kashmir from Punjab on Thursday and reached Jammu city on Monday.

The marathon march is scheduled to make halts at Ramban and Banihal along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway before it culminates with a planned grand rally at Srinagar’s  Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium on January 30.

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