Not Ramji, but caste decides winners in Ayodhya

  • | Monday | 20th May, 2024

The grand inauguration of the Ram temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22 this year has thrust Ayodhya into the international spotlight. However, the electoral dynamics in this Lok Sabha constituency, still commonly referred to as Faizabad, are far more complex, deeply influenced by intricate caste equations alongside temple politics. In this high-stakes constituency, Bharatiya Janata Partys Thakur candidate Lallu Singh faces stiff competition from Samajwadi Partys Dalit candidate and sitting MLA Awadhesh Prasad, and Bahujan Samaj Partys Brahmin candidate Sachhidanand Pandey. Pandey, who recently switched allegiances from the BJP to the BSP, aims to capture the Brahmin vote bank. Ayodhya is synonymous with Lord Ram. But when it comes to elections, invoking Lord Rams name is not enough. The caste of the candidates also matters, observed political analyst Rajesh N Bajpayee. He highlighted that while outsiders might see Ayodhya as a BJP bastion due to its long-standing advocacy for the Ram temple, the reality is more nuanced. Since 1989, there have been eight Lok Sabha elections, and the BJP has won only four of them. Lallu Singh and Vinay Katiyar won twice each, while Mitrasen Yadav won three times – twice on an SP ticket and once as a Communist Party of India candidate. The SP also clinched the seat in 2009. During the peak of Ram lahar (wave) following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992, the BJP faced defeat in the 1993 Vidhan Sabha elections due to a strategic alliance known as social engineering. Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh Yadav joined forces, leading to the formation of the first government by the SP and BSP.   Locals attest to Ayodhyas transformation following the consecration of Lord Ram. The city now bustles with traffic jams and crowds of pilgrims from across the country. The once tranquil 13-km road connecting Ayodhya with Faizabad, now renamed Ram Path, has become the citys bustling hub, reminiscent of Connaught Place in Delhi. This Ram Path has become the citys lifeline, with prominent eateries, big merchandise shops, and business centres emerging. Quaint souvenir shops have transformed into modern establishments adorned with Ram temple models, saffron flags and other Hindu memorabilia, says BP Singh, a local resident. Despite the prominence of saffron politics, caste dynamics remain crucial in the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, which votes on May 20 in the fifth phase. Prime Minister Modi underscored the BJPs focus on this constituency with a roadshow on May 5, supporting Lallu Singhs bid for a third consecutive term. Dalits constitute 26 per cent of the constituencys population, mainly from the Rawat, Chamar and Kori communities. SP candidate Awadhesh Prasad, a seasoned politician and the partys Dalit face, is contesting from here. Prasad, the SP MLA from the Milkipur assembly constituency, has had a long political career since his first assembly win in 1977. After losing the 2017 assembly election, Prasad reclaimed the Milkipur seat in 2022. Meanwhile, former BJP leader Sachhidanand Pandey is the BSPs candidate, representing Brahmin interests. This contest is likely to be interesting because caste plays a significant role, says VN Das, a local journalist. The upper castes predominantly support the BJP, while Dalits and Muslims are likely to back the INDIA bloc candidate, he adds. Veteran BJP leader Lallu Singh is relying on a unified Hindu vote to secure his seat. Singhs campaign is led by Kamla Kant from the partys office on Ram Path. Despite his strong local connections and presence at community events, Singh is actively canvassing to retain his position. The caste composition of the Faizabad constituency includes 26 per cent Dalits (Rawat, Chamar, Kori), 14 per cent Muslims, 12 per cent Kurmi, 12 per cent Yadav, 12 per cent Brahmin, 6 per cent Rajput, 4 per cent Vaish, 5 per cent Kewat/Mallah/Nishad, and 12 per cent Other Backward Classes. This diverse demographic will play a critical role in the upcoming election. As Ayodhya continues to evolve, the intersection of religious significance and electoral politics makes the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency a focal point in the 2024 elections.

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