The in-and-out malady that often marks today’s politicos’ choice of parties or the parties’ choice of poll-savvy faces has once again found a replay in Delhi. This time it is courtesy Jitin Prasada who joined the BJP on Wednesday, with an eye on the upcoming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. He has formerly been a central minister in the erstwhile Congress regime helmed by Dr Manmohan Singh.
But Prasada’s switching sides draws curtains over his family’s three generations old relationship with the grand old party that was nursed by his forefathers though it was rather in a chequered way. His father the late Jitendra Prasada too had gone and returned to the Congress. Yet, this is well past and is shrugged off by the party. It may well be so because Jitin’s grandfather Jyoti Prasada had consistently been with the party since pre-independence days without yearning to share the bits of power with his party peers.
Thus, Jitin, indeed, belongs to an illustrious, privileged and well-off Brahmin family from Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. His ancestors had marital ties with the family of Rabindranath Tagore and also with the former rulers of Kapurthala in Punjab. Yet, in the case of Jitin, all this may look to have lapsed into history by now. More so since unlike his father, 47-year-old Jitin has repeatedly been beaten at the hustings in recent years. So it looks like he is struggling to find his moorings again in the changed scheme of power that has driven Congress into virtual oblivion in UP.
But with polls again looming over UP, both the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his party the BJP, appear to have gone into a tizzy. This is more so because the state has visibly been badly battered by the current, or the second wave, of the pandemic. The state’s tottering healthcare system could not avoid deaths of even some of the legislators and state ministers. The chief minister too had got infected, but luckily got cured. There has been a shortage of oxygen in hospitals leading to avoidable deaths of some of the Corona patients and the virus went on to spread even deep into the villages where healthcare facilities of a reasonable level are non-existent. The death toll has been so high as to fill some of the stretches on the state’s riverside as also the nearby streams with dead bodies.
This may well be enough to dash the hopes of the BJP to win the next polls in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, too has been reporting abnormally high rates of infection. A former aide of the PM, Arvind Sharma, who recently quit the IAS to join the UP Legislative Council, took the charge of fighting the second wave of the virus in Varanasi in order to save the image of the leader. But ever since he is thought to have become a rival of sorts to Adityanath and so there is a power tussle dogging the state.
Significantly, besides Jitin, Sharma too has a Brahmin surname. And likewise his entry in politics from bureaucracy also seems to be meant to mollify Pandits who despite being at the top of the social order since yore, found themselves to be left in the cold with Yogi’s ascent to power in UP. It is so since the Chief Minister comes from a Thakur family of what is now Uttarakhand. This is besides the fact that the saffron-donning Yogi heads a Mutth in Gorakhpur which is largely frequented by Rajput devotees.
For long the Brahmin-Thakur tussle for dominance has been dogging UP. Yet, earlier this has been more so in and around Gorakhpur alone as against what is the case with Yogi’s rise. Now it is thought to have spread through large swathes of the state. Still it is a fact that both Brahmins and Thakurs have largely been voting for the BJP through the past few decades to keep numerically strong lower castes and their leaders away from power. This has also been so in the last Assembly polls held in February 2017. But with five years of Yogi in power in UP, winds of change in the state can well be sensed by the BJP. Since Sharma has no history of being in politics, he at best is thought to be able to streamline administration as he did recently in the case of Varanasi. In fact, it may take some more time for him to become the Brahmin bet of the BJP in UP though he hails from the Eastern part of UP where Gorakhpur too is.
So the BJP needed another Brahmin-savvy face with some prior standing in politics where Jitin is thought to fit the bill. The process of his entry in the BJP is thought to have been brewing since the time of 2019 general elections but it was kept on hold. In the meantime he activated his social outfit called Brahmin Chetna Manch. The Manch or forum highlighted some of the alleged cases of injustice committed against Brahmins in the Yogi regime. So the question is whether Yogi will also welcome Jitin like his central party leaders. And if the chief Mminister could be at odds with Sharma, how can he be expected to accommodate Jitin whether in the party or any other role in the state?
It is not that the Centre is not aware of these challenges posed by Yogi’s brusque nature and attitude towards attempts to induct new persons in what he thinks to be his sole domain. A balancing act is what both the BJP and RSS have been trying for in the case of UP. Only the other day former Chief Secretary of UP, Anoop Chandra Pandey, who has been quite close to Yogi has been appointed as one of the Election Commissioners in Delhi. The idea behind the move may well be to assuage Yogi, besides reminding him that Pandey, a Brahmin close to Yogi has been obliged by the Centre.
So whether it is the case of Sharma, or Pandey, or Jitin Prasada all the three moves made of late by the BJP indicate that the Centre is going to play its Brahmin card in UP polls which may well be announced as early as five, or six months from now.