The Other Backward Classes (OBC) voters are a deciding factor in at least 50 Lok Sabha seats across Uttar Pradesh, as they are spread in all the regions of the state – East, West and Central – accounting for a lion’s share (50%) of the population.

The 2024 Lok Sabha poll results in UP reveal how Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav’s pitch for PDA — Pichde (backward classes), Dalits, Alpasankhyak (minorities) — for the polls gave the performance of the INDIA bloc a boost, which ended up with 43 of the 80 seats with significant support of these communities.

Before the 2024 elections were declared, among OBCs, the SP was considered to only have the complete support of Yadavs, while its ally Congress had no dedicated vote base and depended on the SP vote bank.

On the other hand, the incumbent BJP-led NDA appeared to be in a better position by covering all dominant OBC sub-castes of UP, with the OBC-based parties like the Apna Dal (Sonelal), Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) , NISHAD Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in the BJP’s corner.

What the ruling camp seemed to have missed was how much these allies were themselves dependent on the faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the seats they contested, even as they failed to transfer the votes of their communities to the BJP candidates. elsewhere.

Festive offer

The results show that the OBC sub-castes like Nishad, Kurmi (Patels, Gangwars, Niranjans, Vermas), Rajbhar, Prajapati, Kumhar, Loniya, Sainthwar, Nau and Jats, who dominate in over 40 seats across the state, and were earlier counted among the NDA supporters, flipped and backed the INDIA alliance.

Aware of the crucial significance of the backward castes in UP, the BJP began its groundwork early, to strengthen its base in OBC pockets. It reunited with SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar in July last year, promising him a cabinet berth and Lok Sabha seats. The state BJP leadership was said to have opposed bringing Rajbhar back to the alliance, after he had left the NDA to contest against it in the 2022 Assembly polls as an ally of the SP, securing six seats. The state BJP leadership, in fact, kept him waiting for his ministerial post, which was only granted in March this year, a month before the start of the Lok Sabha elections.

Having OBC parties like the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the NISHAD Party already on its side, the BJP even brought the SP ally RLD into the NDA fold in order to strengthen its Jat vote bank in western UP. RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary, who had won nine Assembly seats as an SP ally, joined the NDA in February this year.

It was Amit Shah who during his past stints as the BJP in-charge of UP and later as the BJP national president, had been instrumental in bringing all these OBC parties to the NDA fold. As the state in-charge, Shah had approached the Apna Dal before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, eyeing its influence over Patel voters, who have a big presence in Varanasi, Mirzapur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Kaushambi and Allahabad. The party also happens to be the only one that has a support base among the OBC Kurmis that have a strong presence all over eastern and central UP.

Apna Dal (Sonelal) chief Anupriya Patel, who is the daughter of the party founder Sonelal Patel, had won her first election from the Rohaniya Assembly seat in Varanasi in 2012, which is dominated by Patels. The Varanasi Lok Sabha seat has over 3 lakh Patel voters.

Like the BJP, the Apna Dal maintained its performance, with Anupriya winning the 2014 election from Mirzapur, and her party candidate Harivansh Singh from Pratapgarh. In 2019, she retained Mirzapur, while Pakodilal Kol of her party won Robertsganj. The party went on to do well in the 2022 Assembly elections, winning 12 seats, the maximum among the BJP’s allies.

However, in the current Lok Sabha polls Anupriya herself struggled to retain her Mirzapur seat against the SP’s Ramesh Chand Bind, only managing to win by 37,810 votes, down from her 2019 margin of 2,32,008 votes. Her party candidate Rinki Kol lost from Robertsganj by 1.29 lakh votes.

The party’s poor grip on the Patel voters even affected PM Modi’s re-election in Varanasi, where his margin of victory dipped from 4.25 lakh votes (2019) to 1.50 lakh this time. This also led to the BJP’s losses in seats like Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Allahabad, Jalaun and Fatehpur.

Both Om Prakash Rajbhar and Sanjay Nishad themselves got a major setback, losing the single seats allotted to them for their sons Arvind Rajbhar (from Ghosi) and Praveen Nishad (from Sant Kabir Nagar), with Praveen losing as the sitting MP.

Rajbhar claimed he wielded influence among the OBC sub-castes like Rajbhar, Prajapati, Kumhar, Loniya, Sainthwar and Koiri, in seats like Ghosi, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Ballia, Bhadohi, Varanasi, Chandauli, Jaunpur, Salempur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Bahraich. , Shrawasti and Basti. Of them, the BJP lost Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Ballia, Jaunpur, Salempur, Shrawasti and Basti seats.

Sanjay Nishad claimed he had a grip on the riverine community, with sub-castes such as Nishad, Kewat, Mallah, Dhiwar, Bind, etc. who are dominant in Gorakhpur, Bansgaon, Maharajganj, Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Robertsganj, Chandauli, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr, Kaushambi, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Fatehpur, Jalaun and Kanpur Dehat. Besides losing Sant Kabir Nagar, the NISHAD Party also failed to transfer the community votes to the BJP, which lost seats like Allahabad, Robertsganj, Chandauli, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr, Kaushambi, Pratapgarh, Fatehpur and Jalaun as a result.

In Varanasi, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Gorakhpur, Bansgaon and Maharajganj, the victory margins of the BJP candidates also fell due to lack of support from the Nishad community. For instance, Nishads dominate the Gorakhpur seat, with about 5.50 lakh voters. Here, the SP’s Kajal Nishad was pitted against sitting BJP MP Ravi Kishan. Kishan secured 5,85,834 votes while Kajal got 4,82,308, reducing Ravi Kishan’s victory margin to 1,03,526 votes, compared to 2019, when he had won the seat with a margin of 3,01,664 votes.

Meanwhile, the RLD appeared to be a gainer by joining the NDA, as it won both Baghpat and Bijnor seats, defeating the INDIA bloc candidates. In 2019, the BJP had won Baghpat, while the BSP had won Bijnor.

In 2019, Jayant Chaudhary had contested from Baghpat as part of the SP-BSP alliance, and was still defeated by the BJP’s Satyapal Singh by 23,502 votes. This time, the RLD’s Rajkumar Sangwan won the seat by 1,59,459 votes, defeating the SP’s Amarpal.

In 2019, the BSP’s Malook Nagar had won Bijnor defeating the BJP’s Raja Bhartendra Singh by 69,941 votes. The RLD’s Chandan Chauhan won this seat this time by 37,508 votes.

So the RLD is back in the reckoning in the politics of western UP. The party claims to have influence among Jat voters in Baghpat, Bijnor, Amroha, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Saharanpur, Kairana, Bulandshahr, Mathura, Hathras and Aligarh. Yet, it could not help the BJP win Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Kairana, while the BJP’s Arun Govil (in Meerut), Satish Gautam (Aligarh), Kanwar Singh Tanwar (Amroha) struggled to win their seats.