Soon after the name of Yogi Adityanath had been announced as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh 13 months ago, supporters of Keshav Prasad Maurya took to the streets in Lucknow, claiming he was a better choice to head the state. The protests were quietly quelled, but the fault lines that ran through the BJP’s edifice in UP remained. Maurya, an OBC leader, had led the party’s state unit in the run-up to the Assembly polls. It was BJP president Amit Shah who had drawn up the ambitious scheme of a rainbow coalition in the state, but one of its chief architects on the ground was Maurya, who consolidated the party’s support base among non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits—communities that had voted BJP in large numbers in the 2014 Lok Sabha election as well, and among whom Maurya enjoys considerable support.
For his efforts, the OBC leader was given the post not of CM, but his deputy, while the scale of the BJP’s victory—winning 312 of 403 seats in the state on its own—perhaps spurred the party to appoint Hindutva strongman Yogi at the helm. The Thakur leader was entrusted with the task of managing the diverse mandate in a caste-ridden state that has 40 per cent OBC population, 21 per cent ‘general category’ castes such as Brahmins, Baniyas and Rajputs, 20 per cent Dalits and 19 per cent Muslims. While the elite castes got a disproportionately large 44 per cent representation in the state assembly, the BJP and its allies managed to win 75 out of the total 85 reserved seats.