Vikas Saraswat
Kalyan Singh and Saffron Surge in UP
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

One man who has been working as zealously and tirelessly as Amit Shah for BJP’s Mission 2014 in Uttar Pradesh is Kalyan Singh. Singh who still awaits his formal re-induction in BJP is clearly a man with a mission. He is busy reviving his old BJP contacts and reaching out to forge new associations. His growing stature within the Party is apparent from the importance he is getting in Modi rallies across the state. If Modi mania is the undeniable macro factor which has given BJP a head start in UP, OBC mobilisation on a war scale is BJP’s chief electoral strategy in the state.

To cut into the crucial OBC vote share, BJP is not relying on Modi’s backward caste status alone and is employing the Party veteran and three times ex CM Kalyan Singh to woo the OBCs aggressively through a platform called Samajik Nyay Morcha. The platform was instituted by Rajnath Singh during his Chief Ministership to target a section of most backwards amongst the OBCs. But after lying neglected for a long time, the Morcha has been revived under the stewardship of national secretary Satendra Kushwaha. A series of meetings in all districts of the state have been planned before elections with Kalyan Singh as star speaker. Uma Bharti, Santosh Gangwar and Om Prakash Singh have also been assigned to the task. Some of the meetings of Samajik Nyay Morcha are likely to be addressed by Amit Shah also.

An interesting social amalgamation on the lines of Kurmi- Keori regrouping in Bihar has been going on in UP for quite some time with Kalyan Singh taking an active interest in the affair. With the help of community leaders he has been toiling for social cohesion of Lodh Rajputs (his own community), Mallahs (Nishads) and Kachhis (Shakyas) as a broader stratum by actively promoting intermarriages between the three castes. The political implication of this move in the state could well be a consolidated vote bank of roughly nine percent which is more than double the previous four percent leverage which Kalyan Singh as a Lodh leader has had up his sleeve.

The importance BJP is attaching to Kalyan Singh was evident when two district Presidents of the Party were removed for not co-operating with him. His growing clout within the Party was visible on his birthday on 5th of January this year. Unlike earlier when there would be hardly any visitors, his Mall avenue residence, on this day, was teeming with visitors. The crowd of birthday wishers was so big that florists and snack vendors who had put stalls outside his residence did a brisk business throughout the day.

Besides Kalyan Singh, Party has already inducted in its fold prominent OBC faces Phaggu Singh Chauhan, Rajesh Verma, Ram Rati Bind and Bhagwan Singh Shakya. It is also in touch with Ganga Charan Rajput ( second most popular Lodh leader after Kalyan Singh), SP Singh Baghel (three times MP- LS and presently Rajya Sabha MP from BSP) and Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (Sone Lal Patel’s daughter).

BJP’s steady decline from 37 percent in 1998 Lok Sabha Polls when it struck gold with a kitty of 56 seats to a poor 15 percent in the last assembly elections has been mainly due to the desertion of OBC support. But with consolidation of Jats in its favour and a renewed enthusiasm amongst MBCs for a backward Modi as PM, a doubling of last year’s vote share is almost assured. In UP politics it signifies Kalyan Singh’s remarkable comeback and an OBC driven saffron surge.