By Amita Verma
Lucknow, Jan 21 (IANS): After almost three decades, Thakurs in Uttar Pradesh have experienced caste pride with Yogi Adityanath taking over the reins of the BJP government.
The fact that Yogi Adityanath is also the head of Goraksh Peeth, which is a Kshatriya Peeth, has an added advantage.
Thakurs in Uttar Pradesh, despite being a powerful community that wields influence in urban and rural areas, has failed to find its voice in the corridors of power after the end of the Veer Bahadur Singh regime in 1988.
Though Rajnath Singh was the chief minister in 2000-2002 but he deliberately downplayed the caste angle in his tenure.
Thakurs constitute only 8 per cent of the state's population but actually own around 50 per cent of the land. They are known to wear their identity on their sleeves.
With Yogi Adityanath becoming the chief minister in 2017, the Thakur community has been overjoyed at what they call, 'our share in power'.
There is no denying the fact that officers belonging to the Thakur community have been given good postings even though it is Brahmins who continue to hold high posts like chief secretary.
The opposition has even accused the Yogi government of going overboard in protecting Thakur interests and shielding Thakur criminals but the chief minister remains unapologetic about it.
Yogi Adityanath, who is respectfully addressed as "Maharaj' by most Thakurs, is seen as a custodian of Thakur rights.
"Thakurs have not got anything substantial in the BJP but our sense of self-respect and pride has been protected and that is what matters most. As for an increased representation in the government, this is only natural because the number of Thakur officers is higher compared to other castes and they have not been inducted in the Yogi regime," said Thakur MLA of the BJP.
The MLA further said, "In any case, Thakurs have nowhere else to go except the BJP. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party is keener on getting Brahmins into their fold and the Congress is preoccupied with its women campaign."
Moreover, Akhilesh Yadav has managed to ruffle Thakur feathers and injure their pride when he made an uncalled-for remark during one of his election meetings in Pratapgarh.
Pratapgarh is the home of independent MLA and former minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh a.k.a. Raja Bhaiyya, who is now one of the tallest Thakur leaders in Uttar Pradesh. He has a royal lineage which adds to his stature and in state politics, he is known as an influencer who can make and break governments.
In Pratapgarh, Akhilesh was asked if he would ally with Raja Bhaiyya's new party, Jansatta Dal, and the SP president responded with "Kaun Raja Bhaiyya?"
The remark evoked a sharp reaction among Thakurs-especially, since it was Raja Bhaiyya who had helped Mulayam Singh cobble up a majority by splitting the BSP and form government in 2003.
"How can he insult our leader like this? No Thakur is now going to vote for SP. Raja Bhaiyya had shown the courtesy of going over and wishing Mulayam Singh at his residence in November but the SP president's behaviour is socially and politically incorrect," said Kunwar Pratap Singh, a resident of Pratapgarh.
That Akhilesh is also not keen on Thakurs is evident from the fact that Thakur leaders in his own party remain side-lined.
The BSP, too, is not seen as pro-Thakur -- especially after Mayawati had booked two Thakurs -- Raja Bhaiyya and Dhananjay Singh under POTA in 2002.
The Congress, on the other hand, has almost no Thakur leadership left in the party and the focus in these elections is on women.
In this situation the BJP is bound to get majority Thakur votes in these elections and with Yogi Adityanath leading the campaign, his community is completely rallying behind him.