Stranger things have happened in Indian politics, where parties who otherwise wish to appear united against common causes such as fighting communalism, poverty, rights of Dalits, labour and farmer issues, have now found a ‘higher’ calling. Now, they stand in line for a slice of the Brahmin vote bank pie, which they have not really had a taste of since the state is known to vote for ‘natonalist’ parties, and caste politics rules on the ground.
However, no harm in trying, seems to be the mantra of the major political parties, who are now working to undo the drubbing they got in the last general, and state, elections. The Brahmin voter of Uttar Pradesh too has recognised this, and as reported in Scroll, has become more vocal after the recent killing of gangster Vikas Dubey, who was a powerful Brahmin.
The news report talks of one Naman Pandit who posted a war cry on his social media page recently, declaring, “Brahamano ko beema nahi chahiye, hathiyar chahiye.” (Brahmins do not want insurance, they want weapons). Pandit, a businessman and a resident of Khurja, in Uttar Pradesh, seems to have secured his social media profile now, but the news report describes him as an office bearer of the Gau Rakshak Sangh in Khurja town in western Uttar Pradesh. He is a proud member of the ‘cow protection’ group who are often in news for their alleged attacks on hapless humans, most of their victims belong to the minority communities.
Here is a screenshot of his facebook page used by Scroll, and also available on the internet, as it may have done the rounds of the WhatsApp universe too.
This guntotting, ‘footsoldier of Hindutva’ is most likely to be a Bharatiya Janata Party loyalist. However, as the BJP government of Uttar Pradesh is led by Chief Minister Adityanath, a Thakur by caste, the Brahmins are feeling ‘marginalised’ and even ‘victimised’.
Therein lies the political opportunity, Preeti Chobey who describes herself as a former National Executive Member of Samajwadi Party, asked: “Why are the killings of Brahmins in UP increasing ???.”
यूपी में ब्राम्हणों की ही हत्याएं क्यों बढ़ रही है???
— Preeti Chobey (@preeti_chobey) August 16, 2020
The death of gangster Vikas Dubey, has fuelled some anger in the Brahmin community that is probably feeling that the current government is “pro-Kshatriya”. In his social media post, Pandit has said “Uttar Pradesh has become “Brahmhatya Pradesh”, a state where Brahmins are killed”.
The next elections in the state are due only in 2022, however the Opposition parties; Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), know the time to do the groundwork is ripe. Scroll even adds the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to the mix, as it too has joined in criticising the UP government’s “neglect” of the Brahmin community. A far cry from the time when the state had Brahmin Chief Ministers, and ministers. At least three, with family origins in Uttar Pradesh have been Prime Ministers too.
That was then, this is now. The Brahmins are now claiming that they are being victimised by the BJP government. Their cries seemed to have stirred sympathy even in Bahujan leader, Mayawati. The National President of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and four time Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has said the Brahmin community is “saddened by the casteist working style of the BJP” towards them. She said now members of the Brahmin society are dissociating from the BJP “and joining the BSP”.
According to Mayawati, the Brahmins are “quite intelligent” and will “not be misled.” She reminded her followers that the BSP government had a “large number of ministers” and those at “other higher posts” from the “the Brahmin Samaj MLAs”.
2. खासकर ब्राह्मण समाज के प्रति बीजेपी की जातिवादी कार्यशैली से दुःखी होकर अब इस पार्टी से अलग होकर व बीएसपी में जुड़ते हुये देखकर इन्हें यह कह रहे हैं कि तिलक, तराजू की बात करने वाले अब परशुराम की बात कर रहे हैं। लेकिन यह समाज काफी बुद्धिमान है। इनके बहकावे में नहीं आयेगा। 2/4
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) August 22, 2020
The Scroll reported that in the recently concluded UP Assembly session, Devmani Dwivedi, a BJP member of the legislative assembly from Sultanpur, asked questions from the government on the alleged attacks on Brahims. He asked, “How many Brahmins have been killed in the present regime? How many killers have been arrested? What are the security plans for Brahmins? Will the government provide them weapon licenses on priority?”
Not to be outdone, Congress’s Jitin Prasada, a former Union Minister of State for Steel, Petroleum & Natural Gas, Road Transport & Highways and Human Resource Development launched an ‘awareness crusade’ for his community. He posted the event proudly as: ‘Brahma_Chetna_’ dialogue, as descendants of lost Parshurama, “walking on the path of justice, will bring back the lost honor, glory and pride of our society.” Parshurama was a Brahmin sage revered as an incarnation of Vishnu in the Hindu mythology.
“ब्रह्म_चेतना_संवाद” जन-जन के आस्था के प्रतीक जनपद #चित्रकूट से हुआ। हम सभी न्याय के पथ पर चलते हुए भगवान परशुराम के बंशज अपने समाज के खोये मान-सम्मान, गौरव को वापस लाकर ही रहेंगे। संवाद में शामिल सभी का आभार…? pic.twitter.com/vIqWGuf03a
— Jitin Prasada जितिन प्रसाद (@JitinPrasada) August 26, 2020
He can now be seen blowing a conch, in his display pic on social media.
The social media page is now active, and gives the Congress leader full credit of course with its tagline: “ब्राह्मणों के सम्मान में। जितिन प्रसाद जी मैदान में।।” that translates as, “For the honor of Brahmins, Jitin Prasad ji in the arena.” A telling sign, that may worry the Congress leadership more than it will anyone in the Brahmin community.
Brahmins constitute about 11% of the state’s voting population, according to estimates shared by political parties, reports Scroll. However, it correctly adds that more than the numbers, it is the Brahmin influence that makes them powerful in state politics. Which is why even Mayawati needs to make sure they are on her side in larger numbers this time around. She has been sharing her ‘concern for the Brahmin community’, which she feared may be feeling vulnerable, and targeted, after Vikas Dubey, and his gang members were shot dead.
Congressman Jitin Prasada, stated the news report, went a step ahead and demanded on August 11, that the Adityanath government restore Parshuram Jayanti as a state holiday. The holiday had been introduced by the Samajwadi Party government in 2007 and revoked by the BJP government in 2017. This was followed by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav who on August 23, said the BJP was now realising the importance of Parshuram and that too for narrow political gain, reported the Scroll, adding that his party colleague Abhishek Mishra had already announced his party would install the world’s tallest statue of Parshuram. The Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh even held a press conference on August 12 alleging that UP Police’s Special Task Force was a “Special Thakur Force” under the incumbent government. The report noted that many BJP sympathisers lodged FIRs against Singh over this comment.
On his part, the UP CM, in his speech in the monsoon session of the UP Assembly made sure to mention: “Ram and Parshuram are same in our eyes, those who differentiate them, they have a problem in their vision.” The Scroll’s news report added that Umesh Dwivedi, a BJP member of the legislative council, had said in a recent television interview that UP government was planning to provide special insurance to Brahmins and jobs for the widows of those who had been killed. However, Brahmin Naman Pandit, the cow vigilante activist, only seems to want weapons.
Perhaps, Jitin Prasada is the one who may need some ‘political insurance’ as he is facing critique from his own party colleagues now. Not yet for his leadership initiatives from the Brahmin community, but for his participation in the alleged dissent that became the core of discussion at the recent Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet. He was the only one from Uttar Pradesh to have signed the now famous “dissent letter”. According to news reports, a unit of the party in Uttar Pradesh has demanded action against Jitin Prasada for that. According to a report by NDTV, the party unit has attacked Prasada and stated, “Jitin Prasada is the only person from Uttar Pradesh to have signed the letter. His family history has been against the Gandhi family and his father the late Jitendra Prasad proved it by fighting elections against Sonia Gandhi. Despite this, Sonia Gandhi gave Jitin Prasada a Lok Sabha ticket and made him a minister. What he has done is gross indiscipline and the district Congress committee wants strict action against him and condemns his actions. ”
He has found support in senior party leader Kapil Sibal who posted, “ Unfortunate that Jitin Prasada is being officially targeted in UP Congress needs to target the BJP with surgical strikes instead wasting its energy by targeting its own”
Unfortunate that Jitin Prasada is being officially targeted in UP
Congress needs to target the BJP with surgical strikes instead wasting its energy by targeting its own
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) August 27, 2020