Satna: Caste factor in mining hub

For the first time since 1991, it could be the Brahmins and Thakurs who will decide which of the two OBC candidates — BJP’s Ganesh Singh or Siddharth Kushwah emerge winner.
Caste census
Caste censusExpress Illustration

BHOPAL : Figuring among prominent cement production and limestone-dolomite mining hubs of the country, the Satna Lok Sabha constituency of Madhya Pradesh goes to polls in the second phase on Saturday, April 26. Famous among Hindus for housing Lord Ram’s Tapobhoomi Chitrakoot and also the revered shrine of Goddess Sharda in Maihar, it’s more the caste factor rather than any national issue, which casts its shadow on the politics of the seat spread in two districts – Satna and Maihar.

Though the seat, dominated by the OBC caste factor, has since 1996 elected OBC MPs, mainly from Patel and Kushwaha sub-castes of the OBC category, for the first time since 1991, it could be the Brahmins and Thakurs who will decide which of the two OBC candidates — BJP’s Ganesh Singh or Siddharth Kushwah emerge winner.

While fourth-time BJP MP Ganesh Singh (Kurmi) is eyeing fifth successive win, Kushwah OBC caste candidate and second-time sitting Congress MLA Siddharth Kushwah is pinning hopes on high anti-incumbency against Singh. Kushwah’s father, Sukhlal Kushwah, had broken the tradition of upper-caste candidates winning the seat. In the 1996 polls, fighting on a BSP ticket, Kushwah (OBC) defeated two ex-CMs – Virendra Kumar Sakhlecha (BJP) and the 1991 winner Arjun Singh (Congress).

Subsequently, the seat was won by BJP’s Kurmi (Patel) caste candidate Ramanand Singh in 1998 and 1999 and for four consecutive times by present BJP MP Ganesh Singh (who too is a Kurmi) since 2004. The second time Ganesh Singh won the seat (2009), he defeated 1996 winner and BSP candidate Sukhlal Kushwah by a margin of 4000-plus votes. Since then, Singh has won the Satna LS seat and defeated ex-CM Arjun Singh’s former LoP son Ajay Singh ‘Rahul’ by 8,600-plus ballots in the 2014 election.

In the 2019 elections, Singh won the seat by defeating Ajay Singh ‘Rahul’s loyalist Brahmin candidate Rajaram Tripathi by a 2.31 lakh-plus margin. Five years later, however, things changed drastically. While sitting MLA from the Satna seat, Siddharth Kushwah took sweet revenge for ex-MP father Sukhlal Kushwah’s 2009 defeat by pipping Singh by less than 6,000 votes in the November 2023 assembly polls from the Satna seat. He is now eyeing to repeat the same feat in the Lok Sabha polls.

But with the OBC vote likely to be divided between the Kurmis and Kushwahs forming the main chunk of 35% OBC votes, it’s the Thakurs and Brahmins, who constitute around 30% of the 16.98 lakh total voter base, who may decide the winner. The Brahmins, who form over 45% of the upper caste voter base, have their candidate, ex-BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi, who is contesting as a BSP candidate and may corner a significant chunk of votes. But chances of him making the contest triangular remain remote, mainly as he doesn’t possess the same money, power and supporters since his 2023 assembly poll loss from Maihar.

Another factor influencing the Brahmin votes will be how their candidates perceive the two OBC candidates. While a significant chunk had voted for BJP rebel and BSP candidate Ratnakar Chaturvedi and winner Congress candidate Siddharth Kushwah to defeat Singh (considered anti-Brahmin) in Satna assembly seat, Kushwah’s tacit support to Singh in the 2019 LS polls to defeat the then Congress candidate Rajaram Tripathi, may see other Brahmins voting against Kushwah to avenge their candidate’s 2019 polls loss.

This makes the around one lakh Thakur vote and 25% SC/ST vote also crucial. Ajay Singh ‘Rahul’s loyalists, upper caste Congress leaders Rajaram Tripathi, Sudhir Tomar, Manish Tiwari, and Pushkar Tomar joining BJP may help the sitting BJP MP’s cause in case of a close contest. Ex-Congress MLA Yadvendra Singh’s switch to BJP may also play a vital role in the outcome.

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