Lucknow: If there is one vote bank that the Samajwadi Party can be completely sure of in the upcoming Assembly elections, it is the Yadavs.
The Yadav community that had partially shifted to the BJP in 2017 Assembly polls and then again in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is now back with the Samajwadi Party.
The Yadavs are now placing their bets on Akhilesh Yadav because they feel that with the support of other non-Yadav backward castes, the Samajwadi Party is much better placed for elections.
"We were upset with the family split in the Samajwadi Party in 2017. The style of Akhilesh's leadership was not like that of Mulayam Singh and so a number of us felt that we should go with BJP," says Utkarsh Yadav, a software engineer from Firozabad.
However, Utkarsh admits that they were disillusioned with the BJP and since the family ties have also been repaired, they are back with SP.
The main reason for Yadav's disillusionment with the BJP is that the party and the government did not promote any Yadav leader.
"Tell me one Yadav leader who has been promoted by the BJP? They have promoted Maurya, Kurmi, Nishad, Saini, Gurjar but not Yadav. Why? If the BJP does not treat us well, we might as well return to our parent party," says Sushil Yadav, a businessman from Kanpur.
Sushil further says that SP can no longer be termed as a 'Yadav only' party.
"Akhilesh has broad-based the party's base. The state president, Naresh Uttam Patel, is a non-Yadav OBC. The 72-member committee has over 40 per cent OBCs, 10 Brahmins, 11 Muslims, more than six Dalits (including three former Bahujan Samaj Party leaders), five women and within this there is a balanced representation of all the regions of the state. The committee has only seven Yadavs," he says to prove his point.
"Moreover, with the recent influx of OBC leaders from the BJP, further proves that SP is now the rallying point for OBCs," he adds.
Responding to the allegation that the Samajwadi Party belongs to just one family, Dadda Yadav, a septuagenarian farmer in Etawah, defends the Yadav clan.
"What is wrong if Mulayam promoted his family? I have a small business and agricultural land and I have adjusted my four sons and three nephews in the business. Should I be blamed for this? Which family does not take care of its children?" he asks.
Yadavs are also apparently upset at the manner in which Mulayam and Akhilesh were targeted by the Yogi Adityanath government.
"Only the Yadav leaders were targeted and were made to vacate their government bungalows. Why was former MP Kusum Rai allowed to retain her bungalow which was allotted to a trust? Why was Fateh Bahadur Singh allowed to retain his bungalow that was allotted to his father's trust? Was it because they belong to the BJP?" asks a retired government officer who belongs to the Yadav community.
He adds, "If people are victimised because of their caste, there is bound to be a reaction from the community and that is what is happening now."
He further says that with Yadavs firmly supporting Akhilesh, the community will also help in bringing other small OBC caste groups into the SP fold.
Yadavs form the largest group, estimated to be about 14-15 per cent of the 42 per cent OBCs in Uttar Pradesh.
After the Mandal agitation, the Yadav community rallied behind Mulayam Singh Yadav and then the Samajwadi Party.
In 2017 and 2019, about 26- 27 per cent of the Yadavs backed the BJP, according to Lokniti , a centre for the study of developing societies findings.