What exactly does political dominance mean? Is there a fixed criteria? If winning the popular vote in elections is the sole criteria, then one would tend to agree with those who think the Rajput community, also known as Thakurs, has enjoyed political dominance since independence in Uttar Pradesh. Unfortunately, that is not the case in politics and why should UP be any different. Political dominance comes with power which is vested through position in the political hierarchy. Therefore, the Thakur dominance in UP theory can at best be described as a sweeping statement.
For those familiar with UP politics, the political dominance in the state can be divided into two phases. The first phase belonged to the Brahmins (1950-1989) in the pre-Mandal era and the second phase belonged to OBCs and Dalits in the post-Mandal scenario (1990-2017). It is true that UP has seen five Thakur chief ministers which is significant as five Brahmins too have occupied the top post in UP. But going by numbers alone isn’t enough, a closer look will reveal the real picture.
It was not the Thakurs who dominated the political landscape in the pre-Mandal era in UP. There were three Thakur chief minister before 1989 and their maximum tenure was less than three years. Tribhuvan Narayan Singh (167 days), Vishwanath Pratap Singh (2 years, 39 days) and Vir Bahadur Singh (2 years, 274 days). The politics in pre-independent and independent era was dominated by Brahmins who held the chief ministerial position for almost 19 out of the 39 years between 1950-89. If we add the period from 1937, the number would go up to 32 out 52 years. That would mean the Brahmins held complete sway for 62% of the period between 1937 and 1989.
The post- Mandal era witnessed the complete loss of power for Brahmins and the emergence of OBC and Dalit leaders to occupy the most important chair in UP politics. Since 1989, apart from two others, the chief ministership has remained with four politicians: Kalyan Singh (approx. 3.5 years), Mulayam Singh (approx. 7 years), Mayawati (approx. 7 years) and Akhilesh Yadav (5 years, 4 days) till Yogi Adityanath became CM in 2017. The 27-year period from 1990-2017 saw these four in the CM’s chair for over 22 years. OBCs and Dalits have cornered the top post for almost 83% of the time during this period. The other two CMs were Ram Prakash Gupta (351 days) and Rajnath Singh (1 year, 131 days) while there was President’s Rule for almost two years during this 27-year period.
Despite the Mandal wave, almost 50 Thakurs have been consistently making it to the UP assembly (403 seats) since the nineties. This is mainly due to their involvement in the local economy, right from agriculture, educational institutions and small businesses. Though a section of the Thakur community enjoy vast tracts of lands and are financially well off, making a generalised statement for the entire community would be a misnomer. References have been made to an article which boasts of a survey of 7,195 households in 14 districts of UP to prove that the Thakurs are the second most affluent group in the state. For a state that has close to 3.5 crore households as per the 2011 Census and 75 districts to boot, it would appear too small a sample size to make such sweeping statements.
Coming back to the present. The opposition and a large section of the media tend to go overboard in their criticism of Yogi Adityanath. He is often referred to as ‘Ajay Singh Bisht’ and a Thakur leader. The fact remains that Yogi Adityanath is not tied to any caste. The Nath sect works closely with the lowest sections of society, especially Dalits. Whether we like it or not, it was this casteless identity which prompted PM Narendra Modi to appoint Yogi Adityanath’s as the chief minister of UP.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.