Not just upper castes: OBCs, Dalits turning to BJP too

Of the two traditionally most important groups in any Indian election, caste and Muslims, it's clear now that the latter is not moving towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. But it certainly appears that the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have managed to dent the traditional voting behaviour of various caste groups.

Data from the latest round of the Lokniti,CSDS-IBN opinion polls shows not only that the BJP is clearly ahead of the Congress among all class groups, it appears that the caste mathematics and number crunching that the party has carefully crafted has had some impact across states.

Taking in SP and Congress. AFP

A file photo of a BSP rally, one of the parties that could lose some of its traditional voters to the BJP. AFP

So, in Uttar Pradesh for example, it's not only the upper castes and Thakurs (one a traditional BJP-supporitng group and the other wooed actively by BJP president Rajnath Singh) who have been swayed by the Modi wave, but the lower OBCs and even sections of the scheduled castes are with the BJP.

While 58 percent of the upper castes and 48 percent of non-Jat OBCs are with the BJP, the latter probably on account of Amit Shah's deft handling of caste group leaders and the fact that Modi is himself an OBC, there's also 29 percent of other SCs excluding the Jatavs who are likely to vote for the BJP.

The story repeats itself in Bihar, where the BJP is no longer seen as just a Hindutva leader. The Indian Express and the Business Standard have reported that Modi's appeal appears to have transcended caste boundaries with the result that these caste groups may not vote according to their traditional preferences. ".. a significant section of the OBCs and EBCs prepare to abandon their patron politicians to effect a change at the Centre," The Indian Express reported.

The Business Standard report pointed out that the Bihar state unit of the party had begun to project leaders including Sushil Kumar Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav as the real faces of the party, sidelining others, with a view to shedding its upper caste image.

So in Bihar too, according to data from the CSDS survey, while 71 percent of upper castes supporting the BJP is no surprise, as much as 33 percent of Dalits and 45 percent of non-Yadav OBCs are with the BJP.

In Maharashtra, 49 percent of OBCs are with the BJP and 39 percent of scheduled tribes support Modi too. In fact, among the SCs, the survey saw an equal percentage -- 32 percent -- say they will vote for BJP and Congress.

In Gujarat, conversely, 70 percent of Dalits remain with the Congress. In Rajasthan, the Congress and BJP are neck and neck among SCs and STs. In MAdhya Pradesh, the COngress is trailing behind the BJP among its traditional suppoort grups, the Dalits as well as the tribals -- 47 percent of Dalits in MP said they would vote for the BJP, only 31 percent favoured the Congress. Among tribals, 62 percent preferred the BJP, only 24 percent favourted the Congress.

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2014 20:47 PM

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