Home / Politics / Policy /  OBC support behind BJP’s electoral gains, say analysts

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to make major electoral gains by garnering the support of other backward classes (OBCs), a community that traditionally sided with the Congress and regional parties, in the Haryana and Maharashtra elections.

The BJP gave 17 seats to candidates belonging to OBCs in Haryana, second only to the Jats, who got 27 seats in the 90-member Haryana assembly. The BJP leaders, however, deny playing the caste card and stress that the party fought the elections on the development plank. Senior party leaders say jobs and developments are issues that unite people and reduce differences.

A majority of the 27% non-Jat OBCs in Haryana, which include the Yadav, Gurjar and Saini communities, shifted their support to the BJP.

This is not the first time the BJP has played the OBC card. The party had used a similar strategy in Uttar Pradesh during the general election this year when it gave nearly 30 seats to members of OBCs, out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Defending the strategy, BJP party vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said: “It is the conviction of PM Modi to make development a pan-India agenda in the hope that it will reduce caste differences and reduce caste influence in the assembly elections."

Development is a great leveller because it is able to serve every section of the people without being biased on the basis of caste and religion, Sahasrabudhhe said. “Maharashtra is one of the most urbanized states in the country and if development becomes an agenda, it subsumes all differences on the basis of caste and religion. Development is a secular agenda," he added.

The BJP had suffered a major setback in Maharashtra when Union minister Gopinath Munde, an OBC leader, died in a road accident in June. The party had then immediately decided to make Pankaja Munde, his daughter, preserve its OBC support base in the state. Maharashtra politics has been dominated by Marathas and OBCs over the past few decades. The party is also trying to attract voters from the scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) with its development agenda.

During the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 40 of the 84 Lok Sabha seats reserved for SCs and the party also won 27 out of the 47 Lok Sabha seats reserved for STs.

Political analysts say there is a definite strategy with which the BJP is moving forward to attract OBCs, SC and ST voters. “Out of 17 SC seats in Haryana, the party had not won a single seat in 2009 assembly elections; but this time, the party has won nine of them with a vote share of 33%," said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

In Maharashtra, the BJP gave tickets to 70 OBC candidates, second only to the dominant Maratha community who were given 106. Brahmins, a traditional support base of the BJP, were given 17% tickets—much higher compared with their strength which is said to be around 3%.

Makrand Gadgil in Mumbai contributed to this story.

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