In a rather "silent" shift in the voting trend which could change the entire caste calculus of all parties in the long term, the Jatav/Chamar votebank, the rock hard support base of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), seems to be moving away from Dalit icon Mayawati for the first time, gravitating towards the BJP under the influence of the 'Modi lahar' (wave).
Political analysts say this is unprecedented and marks perhaps the most important political event of this election. "I am also aware of this. But if it actually turns out to be true in the final analysis, it would be a watershed in not only UP but the country's politics," says senior political analyst Pradeep Kapoor.
Along with Jatavs, other Dalits have also apparently moved away from the BSP. The trend has become evident in the first two phases of the election held in UP on April 10 (west UP – 10 seats) and April 17 (Ruhelkhand – 11 seats). This correspondent spoke to several journalists in these areas who found the trend quite noticeable. dna also spoke to several political analysts and politicians, including those from the BSP, on the new trend.
A senior BSP leader admitted that the party brass was worried about this shift in voting pattern of Jatavs who have blindly backed the BSP regardless of the trials and tribulations of realpolitik. So much so that BSP founder Kanshi Ram even engineered a "transfer" of their votes to the Congress when he formed an alliance with it in the 1996 UP Assembly election without an iota of fear of permanently losing the votebank.
"This time Dalits say Modi can form the government. Modi can fight corruption. Modi can reduce prices. Not Mayawati," said a BSP leader. "They say they will vote for us when 'Behn ji' fights the UP Assembly election. This is really shocking."
"We are always with Behnji. But she is not the issue in this election for us. This time we have decided to vote for BJP as we feel Modi has broken caste barriers and united Hindus which would benefit Dalits in the long run," says Manoj Pasi, a young educated SC voter in Mohanlalganj, a reserved seat right next to Lucknow, seeming to amplify the feeling among Dalits.
The Dalits' electoral gambit has had a ripple effect, with Muslims, lower OBCs and Brahmins, whom the BSP was banking on, also moving away. Interestingly, Brahmins, despite being averse to the BJP due to Rajnath Singh's Thakur-branded politics, are going all-out in the name of Namo. Lower OBCs and even Jats, the Rashtriya Lok Dal's base vote in west UP, have largely been swept away by the Modi wave, while the Muslims have made a bee-line for the Samajwadi Party.
"The main reason is that Mulayam has been able to project the election in UP as a direct SP vs BJP contest," says Umesh Srivastava, a TV reporter in Meerut. "Another important reason is that the SP will remain in power for three more years," he says. "The Muzaffarnagar riots also made a big difference in defining the voting trend in west UP and Ruhelkhand where large areas are dominated by Muslims," says Syed Aamir, a Rampur-based journalist.
The first two phases have rung alarm bells in the BSP camp, and if the trend continues, the fabled Mayawati magic could well see a downturn which could be irreversible in the near future.