In Lodh heartland, Modi reduces caste icon to secondary role

The rise of Ramjanambhoomi Movement in the late 1980s in this area of western UP had firm social fallout – it galvanised the marginalised Lodh community into a firm political force under the leadership of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kalyan Singh. Rising from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and BJP cadres, Kalyan Singh at the height of anti-Babri masjid agitation had become the pincer head of the movement.

This helped his party reap a rich political harvest. Though the Lodhs constitute just two percent of the total population of Uttar Pradesh, they have very intensive presence in and around Bulandshahr. Their population varies from 10 to 35 per cent on 11 Lok Sabha seats spread over districts of Aligarh, Agra, Ferozabad and Farrukhabad in addition to Bulandshahr. Between 1991 and 2004, the Bulandshahr seat was consecutively won five times by the BJP. It lost in 2009 as Kalyan Singh left the party on dispute over party candidate and the rebel blessed by him won.

The appointment of Narendra Modi confidante Amit Shah as the incharge of party unit in Uttar Pradesh ensured that the long simmering political discords were resolved. Return of Kalyan Singh to party fold and accommodation of his son Rajveer Singh as party candidate from Etah and protégé Bhola Singh from Bulandshahr are a case in point. Today BJP, at least on the surface, has it poll machinery in place in the region but will it be enough to see it through on all of the 11 seats from the area.

Lodhs alone don’t matter. Almost all these seats have a substantial Muslim presence, who did not mark their attendance at the Bharat Vijay rally of the BJP prime ministerial candidate in Bulandshahr. There is a big presence of the Dalit and Yadav votes in the region. While the former continues to be firmly with former chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Yadavs are with Samajwadi Party.

The other community in good number are the Brahmins, who over the years have been cultivated by Mayawati through local satraps like Ramveer Upadhya, whose wife is sitting MP from Fatehpur Sikri and brother is contesting from Ghaziabad. BJP unfortunately doesn’t have a prominent Brahmin face in the area after the assassination of Brahm Dutt Dwivedi in 1997. Dwivedi was killed years ago but Mayavati has not forgotten the favour he had done ‘rescuing’ her in the infamous Lucknow state guest house incident of 1995. Dwivedi to her was a rakhi brother. On the other hand, there was no love lost between Dwivedi and Kalyan Singh.

But the clock has moved forward from the Ramjanambhoomi days. There is definite caste Hindu and non-Yadav OBCs including Lodh consolidation in the name of Narendra Modi in the region. But in the absence of a strong local leadership, it’s difficult to say how huge would be the harvest for BJP in this agrarian country.
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