As the elections move towards Avadh, Doab and Bundelkhand regions of central Uttar Pradesh, INDIA bloc leaders from Congress and Samajwadi Party have intensified their joint outreach towards non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalit vote bank of the BJP.

The SP-Congress strategy in this election is a replica of the BJP’s strategy in the last two elections wherein the saffron party weaned away Dalits other than Jatavs who primarily constitute the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP)‘s vote bank. Additionally, the BJP attracted OBCs other than Yadavs from the Samajwadi Party (SP). However, in these elections, the SP has made a major overture towards these sub-castes among Dalits and OBCs by giving them a lion’s share of the tickets. In fact, the Yadavs and the Muslims, who form the backbone of the SP’s famous “MY vote bank”, have been given much lesser number of tickets this time whereas smaller sub castes have got a larger share.

The SP gave tickets only to four Muslim candidates out of 62 seats it’s contesting in the state . But for the five members of his immediate family who have been given tickets in Kannuaj, Mainpuri, Badaun, Firozabad, and Azamgarh, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has avoided fielding other Yadav candidates. Instead, the regional party preferred to field 26 representatives from other castes such as Kurmis, Kushwaha, Maurya and Shakya, said a SP leader of UP. This is with the understanding that minorities and Yadavs’ vote for INDIA bloc candidates will remain intact although the BSP has given maximum tickets to Muslims, the SP leader added.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is drifting alone in this election and has not tied up with either the BJP or the SP-Congress, is being majorly poached on by the INDIA bloc. For the purpose of attracting Dalits aligned with the BSP, besides giving a major chunk of tickets to Dalits, the SP has pushed the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, himself a Dalit, into the heat of the campaign.

On Wednesday morning, Kharge addressed a joint press conference with former UP Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow.

Kharge underlined that the BJP will “change the Constitution” if it comes to power with a huge mandate. There is an understanding among the SP and Congress ground-level workers that a large section of Dalits believe that the BJP’s “400 paar” narrative is with the intent of changing the Constitution. Kharge stoked that sentiment and repeated the Congress’s assertion that the BJP will change the Constitution.

After the press conference, Kharge also addressed rallies in the State. At a rally in Rae Bareli, from where Rahul Gandhi is contesting elections, Kharge responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that the Congress will reduce the reservation of SC, ST and OBC and increase that of minorities if voted to power. Kharge asserted that the Congress has been fighting for reservation and to save the Constitution. “We have been fighting for reservation and to save the Constitution. You are talking about finishing the Constitution. You have no right to talk about reservations,” he said.