Lok Sabha polls 2024: How to crack UP’s reserved seat puzzle

The loosening grip of BSP over SC voters is also a reason for the emergence of BJP as the first choice of non-Jatav Dalits.
Voters during the election polls

Voters during the election polls

Center-Center-Kochi

LUCKNOW: The 17 reserved seats — the constituencies in which seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes based on the size of their population — have a different flavour in the political landscape of Uttar Pradesh.

The strategy to win them in elections is charted differently because these seats are won not on national issues. Basic needs of life matter more than symbols and narratives available outside. The parties capable of getting traction on the ground emerge victorious as these 17 seats make the foundation of the outcome of the rest of 63 Lok Sabha constituencies of the most crucial state of Hindi heartland.

<P>Voters during the election polls</P>
Uttar Pradesh: Battle to protect political legacies

The BJP seems have got its formula right, wining most reserved seats in the last two Lok Sabha polls. In 2014, the party’s strike rate was almost cent per cent; it lost two of 17 to Bahujan Samaj Party, which claims to have the strongest presence among Dalits, in 2019.

These 17 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes in UP are Nagina, Bulandshahr, Hathras, Agra, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Misrikh, Etawah, Bahraich, Jalaun, Mohanlalganj, Kaushambi, Barabanki, Lalganj, Machhlishahar, Bansgaon and Robertsganj. These are spread across the state from western to eastern UP.

Barring Nagina in western UP and Lalganj in far east, BJP won all the 15 seats in 2019 despite the presence of the formidable SP-BSP grand alliance.

The significance of reserved seats is attributed to the substantial presence of SC voters on every seat as they make up 21% of the total population of UP. This percentage is broadly divided into 11.7% Jatavs (biggest group), 3.3% Pasis, 3.15% Valmikis, 1.2% Gond, Dhanuk, Khatiks and 1.6% others.

This time, the BJP is treading cautiously. It expanded the reach of NDA by scrupulously including the smaller caste-based groups including Jayant Chaudhury-led RLD, OP Rajbhar-led SBSP, Sanjay Nishad-led NISHAD, Anupriya Patel-led Apna Dal (S), to woo the castes represented by them.

In fact, during the last two Lok Sabha elections, the BJP kept its focus on non-Jatav SCs, non-Yadav OBCs and upper castes, managing a diverse caste matrix minus Muslims and sailed through impressively. The party left the Jatavs as they always consolidated in favour of BSP, and Yadavs in favour of SP.

<P>Voters during the election polls</P>
Dissent voices emanating in various pockets of Uttar Pradesh BJP against party candidates

As per its strategy, the saffron brigade activated its SC cells and asked the leaders to reach out to the Dalits with the message that their interest was safe under the Modi government while highlighting pro-poor welfare schemes.

Pitted against the ruling alliance is the INDI bloc. However, it seems an uphill task for the opposition under the present scenario when it is represented just by the SP and Congress. The loosening grip of BSP over SC voters is also a reason for the emergence of BJP as the first choice of non-Jatav Dalits.

Analysts say despite riding on the ‘PDA’ (‘Pichchhda, Dalit and Alpsankhyak’), the Samajwadi Party will find it difficult to convince the Dalits who take SP’s past regimes as hostile dispensations towards them as their lands were grabbed and they were intimidated and subjugated by powerful Yadavs in many pockets of the state.

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