ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Uttar Pradesh : BJP's Caste Card

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It had been a long wait, but on October 28 Rajnath Singh was finally sworn in as BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Astute in caste manipulation in a state where the caste factor and caste alignments make and break governments, his elevation has been seen as the antidote to BJP's flagging fortunes in the state. Yet there were whispers of rebellion in the BJP ranks, as Uma Bharati took up cudgels on behalf of the backward castes. And in his first week in office the new chief minister has had to contend with the hasty change of the state governor, charges of police excesses and a bloody Sunni-Shia conflict in the eastern district of Azamgarh. A literal baptism by fire.

It was in 1997, when he was given credit for saving Kalyan Singh's government in UP after coalition partner BSP withdrew support to it, that Rajnath Singh came into prominence. He engineered splits in the Congress and the BSP, drawing away upper caste Thakur-Rajput members of the two parties. The new parties thus formed, the Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP) and the Jantantrik Bahujan Samaj Party (JBSP), enabled the Kalyan Singh government to survive. In February 1998, it was Rajnath Singh again who won over some MLAs who were backing the short-lived claim of Jagdampika Pal (LCP) to the chief ministership.

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