LUCKNOW: It could be a mere coincidence or a well-thought-out strategy. For the first time in nearly four decades, all four major political parties - the BJP, SP, BSP and Congress - have fielded Brahmin candidates making it a closely-fought contest for the Deoria Assembly seat where a bypoll is due to be held with six other seats on November 3.
While the Congress had taken the lead in announcing the name of their candidate, the BJP and the SP finalised their contestants from Deoria late Wednesday.
The Deoria seat fell vacant following the demise of BJP’s sitting MLA Janmejaya Singh in August during the monsoon session of the state legislature.
The BJP has settled for a political science lecturer in Satya Prakash Mani, a trusted party hand.
Janmejaya Singh was an OBC-Sainthwar. The demand to field his son as the party's candidate was doing the rounds. The ruling party's decision of fielding a Brahmin candidate when its three main rivals have already named Brahmin candidates is being questioned within the party circles itself.
The SP, meanwhile, has fielded Brahma Shankar Tripathi, an influential former minister and lawmaker.
The Congress was the first to declare Mukund Bhaskar Mani Tripathi, a local, as its candidate.
As for the BSP, they have fielded Abhay Nath Tripathi this time making the contest the most keenly watched among those for the seven seats.
In fact, the race to woo the Brahmins to sail through in Deoria is pegged upon the dominance of the caste in the eastern UP district. Deoria has around 55,000-60,000 Brahmin voters, who constitute approximately 18-19% of the vote bank.
Not only in Deoria, but of the 28 candidates announced by the four major parties for the seven assembly seats going to the bypolls next month, one fourth are Brahmins indicating a close contest for the upper-caste vote bank.
Notably, parties have also been using the 'Parashuram' card to woo the Brahmin vote bank recently. Brahmins make 10 percent of the total electorate of Uttar Pradesh.
They have been jostling to impress the upper caste by promising to install statues of Parashuram, a Brahmin who was the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu as per Sanatan mythology. While SP and BSP were doing this, the Congress focused on Brahmins through their senior leader Jitin Prasad, who has been claiming that Brahmins were being allegedly tormented and targetted under Yogi Adityanath's rule.
The SP and BSP workers have also reportedly been asked to ready a list of so-called ‘atrocities’ on Brahmins that could be played up during the election campaign.
In other seats also, the contest is going to be quite tough.
The BJP will bank heavily on the 'charisma' of CM Yogi Adityanath since the party has ignored the popular wishes of the party cadre while handing out tickets in some constituencies.
For instance, in the Ghatampur (reserve) seat in Kanpur, which fell vacant due to the demise of popular leader and cabinet minister Kamal Rani Varun, there was a strong demand to give a ticket to her daughter. But the party fielded Upendra Paswan instead. Kamal Rani Varun had died due to COVID-19 in August.
This was in sharp contrast to what happened in Naugawan Saadat in Amroha where the party fielded Sangita Chauhan after the seat fell vacant due to the demise of cabinet minister Chetan Chauhan.
Sangita is the wife of Chetan Chauhan, who again died of Covid. Sangita has not been politically active, but she has been given a ticket.
In the Malhani constituency, a strong bastion of the SP, that fell vacant with the demise of eight-time MLA Parasnath Yadav, the SP has given his son Shani Yadav the ticket. The remaining three parties have fielded upper-caste candidates in the Yadav-dominated constituency.
This will be the first major test for the Yogi government since the Covid crisis and the outcome could also end up being seen as a vote on the state government's strategy to overcome the challenge posed by the pandemic.