The 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are not yet in sight but Opposition parties have already started wooing the Brahmin community through caste symbols, in particular Parshuram, the axe-wielding warrior believed by Hindus to be the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu.
If the Samajwadi Party has announced it would build a 108-feet tall statue of Parshuram, considered a religious icon by Brahmins, in Lucknow the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Sunday said its version of a Parshuram statue, to be built if it came back to power, would be much more grand than the SP’s.
Ms. Mayawati also said that if voted back, her party would build modern hospitals and rest-houses in the name of Parshuram and icons, gurus and saints from other castes and religions.
Parshuram was a “special symbol of Brahmin faith and self-esteem”, the four-time former chief minister said.
This is not the first time Ms. Mayawati has tried to woo Brahmins through symbolism or representation. However, her latest overture towards the community comes in the wake of the Bikru ambush and subsequent death of accused Vikas Dubey, a Brahmin, in an alleged encounter. A section of Brahmin leaders in U.P. and social media users had wondered if the community was being targetted, fuelling a perception of discontent among them.
Since the Kanpur episode in July, Opposition parties have tried to link it with other incidents where Brahmins have been targetted or killed under the BJP government, headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur.
Though just around 9% of the State’s population, Brahmins punch way above their weight in politics due to their strong social network, hold over key positions in bureaucracy, economy, judiciary, media and power, as well as their cultural and religious influence on other castes.
Abhishek Mishra, SP national secretary, said an 108-feet tall statue of Parshuram would be built in Lucknow under the banner of the Bhagwan Parshuram Chetna Peeth.
“This would be the world’s tallest, most wonderful, unparalleled and and unique statue [of Parshuram],” said Mr. Mishra. A gurukul and a research centre for religious study, religious philosophy and religious music would also come up, he said.
Mr. Mishra said they were already in touch with architects in Jaipur for the statue.
Ms. Mayawati, while announcing her own plans for a statue, argued that the Brahmin community would not fall for the SP’s plans and accused the party of working under political greed. The community was “most oppressed and exploited” under the SP governments, she claimed. The Brahmins fully trust the BSP and know that unlike the SP it doesn’t just talk but works, she added.
Neglected, says Cong.
The Congress Party led by former Union Minister Jitin Prasada has also launched a campaign to woo the Brahmins. Under the Brahmin Chetna Parishad forum, Mr. Prasada, himself a Brahmin, is highlighting incidents of alleged atrocities and neglect faced by members of the community. This involves underlining the caste of the victims in cases of violent crimes or police cases.
“It is unlikely that the magnitude of atrocities faced by the samaj (Brahmins) in the present time was seen in the past,” Mr. Prasad tweeted. “Those sitting in power through the Brahmin vote, should understand that the samaj would definitely take account of this when the time comes,” he said on Saturday.
Ms. Mayawati also said that in the name of the Vikas Dubey incident in Kanpur, the entire Brahmin community in U.P. was facing oppression and exploitation at all levels.