Where And How Does Jitin Prasada Fit Into The UP BJP?

by Sumati Mehrishi - Jun 28, 2021 01:31 PM +05:30 IST
Where And How Does Jitin Prasada Fit Into The UP BJP? Jitin Prasada with Yogi Adityanath
  • Some say that Prasada may take a decade, or at least five years, to establish himself as a formidable Brahmin leader in the Uttar Pradesh BJP.

    There is no math to this duration. The moment Prasada finds his new communication and a new avatar, five years may squeeze to just five months.

Moves in Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh) might hold the key to the BJP's Brahmin outreach in Uttar Pradesh as the party moves towards its preparations for 2022. With speculations rising on the expansion of Prime minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, names of leaders from Purvanchal as the expected favourites are coming to the fore. Many of them belong to the Brahmin community. Among them are Harish Dwivedi (Basti), Dr Ramapati Ram Tripathi (Deoria), Seema Dwivedi (Rajya Sabha), Vijay Dubey (Kushi Nagar), Ravi Kishan Shukla (Gorakhpur), Shiv Pratap Shukla (Rajya Sabha).

Along with Kalraj Mishra, Shiv Pratap Shukla has been part of the Modi cabinet earlier. Along with these, there are other leaders in the BJP representing the Brahmin community (reportedly nearly 11 per cent of the state population) -- who are part of UP politics and whose work will shape the prospects of the BJP in 2022.

Every time sections of the media attribute the term "social engineering" to the BJP, its old context in Uttar Pradesh politics, emanating from BSP’s 2007 strategy, clashes with the new.

The role of the Brahmin community in shaping the BJP's performance -- in numbers as well as emotion -- is well known. It was perhaps for this reason that the entry of Jitin Prasada in the BJP excited several sections of the media.

A lot has been said in the media regarding Prasada's prospects in the BJP and everytime the mention of Prasada comes following closely is the mention of the 'Brahmin Chetna Parishad'.

Son of former Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, Jitin Prasada was looking at creating a space for himself and emerging as a leader of the Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh through the 'Brahmin Chetna Parishad'. One of its aims, he said in 2020, was to make efforts towards uniting the Brahmins in the state.

The Parishad was launched in 2017-- the year Uttar Pradesh went to assembly election. In 2020, in a move that gathered its share of publicity, Prasada requested MLAs to take up the issue of Brahmins in the Vidhan Sabha and placed a request for declaring Parashuram Jayanti as a holiday. Other prominent politicians in the state, representing rival parties of the Congress, were seen following Prasada and taking up the celebration of Parashuram as a cause for Brahmin identity. "The community is being made to struggle for justice and is facing step-motherly treatment. It's being deprived of its rights and the need of the hour is to unite and fight for its identity," he was quoted as saying.

Later, in a statement that he issued on the letterhead of 'Brahman Chetna Parishad', Prasada said that a decision has been taken to create a dialogue through social media platforms towards uniting Brahmins. Reports then mentioned him as the convenor of the Parishad.

The highlight of this letter was that he stressed that the Congress party had nothing to do with the initiative. "I am doing what I think is right," he said.

UPCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu told the local press then that he had nothing to comment on the matter and that it was Prasada's personal issue. Prasada suddenly found himself in the middle of the internal politics of the Congress’ state unit. One prominent leader from his previous party said in a post on Twitter that "Jitin Prasada is being officially targeted in UP."

When it came to Prasada's efforts in mobilising the Brahmins, the Congress did not seem to own them as its own. While the party was making efforts to get closer to the Brahmin community after the upsurge of the BJP with support from Brahmins in 2017, Prasada's efforts did not find takers and movers in his own party. The Lakhimpur Kheri unit of the Congress attacked Prasada when he was found to be one of the Congress leaders who wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi, calling for visible leadership and reforms. He was quickly seen as "the only leader from Uttar Pradesh" to have signed the letter for a change of leadership.

Here is another way of looking at it. He was, indeed, the only prominent leader in the state last year making some visible signs of political activity, whether through taking up the issue of Brahmin identity or signing the letter. In Jitin Prasada, the Congress has lost that prominent leader who was trying to create a political space for himself. With that, it has lost the opportunity to own or move Prasada's initiative in the Brahmin Chetna Parishad.

Many may argue that Prasada's initiative did not have the rigour and vigour to move the dialogue against Adityanath back in 2020. Today, Prasada is in the same party as Adityanath. He has met Adityanath. Today, Prasada is one of the leaders representing the Brahmin community in BJP, Uttar Pradesh even as the party has other leaders from the community who are far more popular than Prasada himself.

However, Prasada's own value in the state for the BJP and for the dialogue being built towards the Brahmin cause lies in his initiative, the Parishad.

BJP's senior guard might do well to propel the dialogue with the Brahmin voter community using in essence, if not in body, Prasada's attacking skills through his own Parishad.

Imagine, for instance, that the Parishad finds a taker in the BJP. It would begin to work against the politics of the same parties that were using Prasada's concerns towards the Brahmin community to build their own language.

There are other leaders in the BJP, who come from the Brahmin community, and are well established in the state soil. If they choose to support the initiative even in ways symbolic, it might go down as a message of acceptance -- of Prasada. For instance, Ritu Bahuguna Joshi. She has been firm in her role as a woman leader in the BJP, has participated actively in Adityanath's cultural programmes and outreach. Her voice on the outreach, alongside Prasada, could work up an effect.

Until last year, Prasada's mention of the Brahmin cause in Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh would come as that from any other politician from the opposition. This year, Prasada has taken a step forward towards Adityanath after taking a leap into BJP.

If Prasada is able to cast himself as a Brahmin leader under the Sanyasi CM, and aligns, may be in the years to come with Adityanath's own Hindutva trajectory, he would automatically have used all existing strengths in the process. For that, he needs to be seen as open to all levels of BJP's narrative and narrative builders -- from all castes -- particularly of those of his own.

These strengths are supporters on ground, interaction with the Brahmin community using the emotive aims of the Parishad, and a foot each in UP and Delhi among others. The use of these in alignment with Adityanath would mean two things. Prasada would rediscover ground. He would have put in the same efforts on ground as others.

A popular actor became "winnable" in BJP after he left Congress. He wears his Brahmin identity proudly. He makes pride in the region and language blend effortlessly when he interacts with people. It does matter that he is MP from Gorakhpur -- Adityanath's spiritual bhoomi.

BJP's opposition would come up with newer tactics to test the party's stride as months pass. There is enough work, there are enough tasks and areas, for any newcomer to take or stake a claim to -- from the caste spectrum.

Some say that Prasada may take a decade, or at least five years, to establish himself as a formidable Brahmin leader. There is no math to this duration. The moment Prasada finds his new communication and a new avatar, five years may squeeze to just five months.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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