Polling in Bahraich

Polling took place yesterday in the Phase 5 districts, which include some of UP’s poorest districts along the border with Nepal, such as Balrampur, Shravasti, Bahraich and Gonda. It is very difficult to predict who will win, and asking people what they ‘feel’ the winner will be is often very misleading. I spent most of the day yesterday in two villages of Shravasti district with Brahman families, which overwhelmingly support the BJP. It is remarkable to see that despite their relatively small demographic weight, the high castes form the bedrock of the BJP’s electorate. Part of this support owes to the personality of Narendra Modi, who is seen as ‘honest,’ or comparatively more honest than other politicians. His responsibility in the Godhra incident in 2002 (pogroms against Muslims) does not turn Brahman voters off, in fact, it is one of the main reasons of their support for the PM. In a district such as Bahraich, where the Muslim population is relatively large (30% as against 18% in the whole of UP), he is seen as someone who actually taught Muslims a lesson. It was somehow disheartening to hear some of them praise Donald Trump, simply because he dislikes Muslims…

And then there are the reservations. ‘BJP sarkar banti, to arakshan khatam ho jaaega’ [If the BJP forms the government, then the reservation will end] is a mantra among Brahman families. When one travels in the countryside, it is remarkable to see how unable Brahmans are to see how much better off they are. Villages in rural Uttar Pradesh include ‘majres’ [hamlets] that include different castes and Brahman families often live next door to much poorer communities, be they SC or OBC.

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