Keshav Prasad Maurya
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya Image Credit: ANI

In the poll bound state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in India, Keshav Prasad Maurya, 52, deputy to Yogi Adityanath, is a politician with a grudge — always a groomsman, never the groom.

Maurya is a near doppelganger of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Like Modi, he claims to have sold tea and newspapers as a child. Maurya also revels in the fact that he has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since childhood.

After Modi became PM, Maurya who made much of the fact that he was the BJP’s Other Backward Class (OBC) — a collective term used in India to classify socially disadvantaged — face in Uttar Pradesh, was appointed state chief. The OBC vote in UP is nearly 32 per cent.

And, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the assembly elections 2017, Maurya thought he would finally wear the crown, only to be pipped to the post by Yogi Adityanath.

Since then Maurya and Yogi have been locked in a fierce rivalry with Yogi giving his in-house rival lightweight portfolios and Maurya complaining against Yogi Adityanath to anyone who would listen.

The Yogi-Maurya face-off also foregrounds the limitations of the unified “Hindu Samaj” caste calculations of the RSS. Backgrounding this is the “Mandal versus Kamandal” clash.

Sidelined by Yogi

This clash came about when the V P Singh government notified the Mandal committee report which gave benefits to the OBC castes.

As caste assertion rose in UP with leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party and Kanshi Ram and Mayawati with the Bahujan Samaj Party, an alarmed BJP responded with the Ram Janmabhoomi issue and L K Advani launched his Rath Yatra to consolidate the Hindu vote.

Maurya, like Yogi, played an important role in the 1991 Ram Temple movement. He had the formidable Hindu hard liner Ashok Singhal as his mentor. Maurya also had a number of serious cases lodged against him — something that seems mandatory for a heartland leader.

Currently sidelined by Yogi Adityanath, Maurya was not allowed to contest the elections from Mathura — coming up as a hot Sangh issue as the spot for the Krishna Janambhoomi — and watches as other OBC leaders like the heavyweight Swami Prasad Maurya exit the BJP.

Maurya is contesting the assembly elections from Sirathu in Kaushambhi and when he went there to campaign last Saturday, he faced huge local protests as the villagers demonstrated against him.

An unkind cut

All the three BJP cabinet ministers who quit the Yogi cabinet made a common cause of the party not being interested in the welfare of the OBC and the SC voters. All three have joined Akhilesh Yadav and made common cause with the SP.

All that Maurya could do was make frantic social media appeals to them to not leave the BJP and discuss their grievances. Swami Prasad Maurya mocked the deputy CM UP by saying he had no power and no standing with the upper caste-favouring BJP and couldn’t even leave the party as he had no base.

An unkind cut, but, Maurya is used to them by now as he is completely boxed in by Yogi Adityanath. To win UP again, the BJP needs a consolidated upper caste vote, non Yadav OBC vote and the non Jatav SC vote.

The ruling party currently views Akhilesh Yadav as its main rival but is thrilled by the fact that the Congress party and BSP might cut in to the SP vote share, as some surveys claim.

However, the BJP is currently papering over its caste contradictions and using Yogi Adityanath and Modi as its mascots.

March 10 will end the suspense and also the path ahead for the ambitious Keshav Prasad Maurya.