Come elections and political analysts air drop into villages of the Hindi heartland cornering people about elections, issues, voting, etc. The issues vary from economic development, infrastructure, health facilities, education and how they are going to affect the election. The villagers also counter them by adding a few more issues. It seems to be the perfect situation—where the development work in a constituency is analysed and the report cards of MLAs scrutinised. However, very few care to delve into the caste arithmetic in UP. Superficially, the elections may be contested on glossy issues but internally, caste equations play a major role.
Such is the impact of caste in UP that whenever a leader switches sides, it is painted as a prize catch for the beneficiary party as it is expected to influence that particular community. Needless to say, often party-hoppers do not have any sway over their own community. Whenever any political party releases its list of candidates, the foremost story in any newsroom is to count the number of candidates from every caste, so as to get a catchy headline in the next day’s issue. At times, neutral surnames like Singh often prove wrong as it is hard to guess the caste of the candidate. Even if a party fields fewer candidates from a particular caste, it is highlighted. Another aspect has now been added to the cauldron with different parties promising that they will conduct a caste survey, if voted to power.