Monday, Jul 04, 2022
UP Election 2022

Icons And Myths: How The Past And Present Are Colliding In UP’s Caste Cauldron

In the Hindi belt’s transactional politics, more and more caste groups are asserting their identity by harking back to historical or mythical icons, to demand a share of the electoral marketplace

Heartland Maelstrom
Heartland Maelstrom Photographs: Getty Images

Electoral politics in the Hindi heartland is the story of hundreds of castes, their dynamics, each striving for their representation, everyone consolidating behind their leader or icon. With inc­reased awareness and bargaining power, their leaders often stitch alliances for the great electoral marketplace.

Each caste comes with their “glorious past”, often based on stories of hoary historical figures, augmented with validation from Hindu religious scriptures. Pro­m­i­nent national leaders such as Beni Prasad Verma (Kurmi), Phoo­lan Devi (Nishad), Ashok Gehlot (Saini), etc, have emerged from some of these communities. Oft­en in Uttar Pradesh, these lower castes are subdued by the aura of the Yadav community, the most domin­ant among OBCs.