Have the election results brought back Mandal politics? Also understand its impact on Hindutva

Ananya Shroff
4 Min Read

New Delhi : The Lok Sabha election saw a decisive victory for a caste-centric alliance in UP. This victory has reshaped the political landscape. This shift from religion to caste-based campaigning reflects a significant shift in voters' priorities. The opposition alliance led by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav ran on a platform of caste census and constitutional protection. It attracted mainly Dalits and OBCs. In contrast, PM Modi's campaign focused on religious themes. The victory of the SP-Congress alliance is part of a broader national trend.

The effect was also seen in other states of the country

In Maharashtra, the Congress, along with the NCP and Shiv Sena, capitalised on the Maratha agitation and rural distress among OBCs. The Congress in the state also moved away from traditional leadership by appointing Nana Patole as party chief. Meanwhile, in Tamil Nadu, the DMK emphasised social justice to counter the BJP’s Hindutva narrative, and projected the contest as a fight between caste and communalism. In Bihar, despite the BJP’s alliance with the JD(U) that focused on caste politics, the RJD-Congress OBC-centric approach proved formidable. In Jharkhand, the JMM-Congress opposition also made inroads by attracting tribals and backward communities.

Muslims are the only community behind the power of SP in UP and TMC in Bengal, know why

UP: 'Mandal vs Kamandal' conflict

However, UP remained the epicentre of the classic 'Mandal vs Kamandal' conflict. It was reminiscent of the late 1980s when Mandal politics and Rath Yatras brought leaders like Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav to the fore. The BJP's dominance since 2014 was first overtaken by both the SP and the BSP, thanks to Modi's hardline Hindutva. The BJP's strategy combined religious appeal with a targeted outreach to non-Yadav OBCs. This eroded the Samajwadi Party's support base. Also, the BJP took advantage of the BSP's decline.

Akhilesh Yadav is following in his father's footsteps

After a decade of BJP rule, Akhilesh revived the Mandalist approach of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. He projected himself as a young leader advocating for backward classes, Dalits and minorities. The Congress supported this strategy. At the same time, he promoted a caste census and challenged the 50% quota cap. The India Bloc projected the election as a fight to protect Ambedkar's Constitution. This attracted volatile BSP voters. Modi responded with a vigorous campaign. He accused the opposition of intending to divert the SC/ST/OBC quotas to Muslims. Despite these efforts, the elections mirrored the 1989 scenario, with caste politics once again taking centre stage.

When will caste based politics end?

Over the past few years, many have predicted the end of caste-based politics in favour of economic and religious divisions. The BJP was often seen as rising above caste dynamics through its religious appeal. However, these predictions underestimated the enduring significance of caste identities and their ability to reassert themselves in the political landscape.

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