From the ancient king Yadu descended the Yadavs. Staunch Vaishnavites, Shri Krishna worshipping Yadavs are the Hindu among the Hindus. They belong to the Kshatriya varna according to the Vedic Varna Vyavastha. Yadavs are generally associated with pastoral occupations related to cattle but not what many don’t know is that Yadavs controlled large swathes of land in India and remained in power before the arrival of Muslims. Historian J.N. Singh gives a vivid account of Yadavs and their lineage, in his Magnum Opus “Yadav’s Through The Ages”, where he brilliantly connects the Hoyasalas of the Kannada country with their Yadav lineage. Historian S.C. Raychoudhary claims that the founder of the Wodeyar dynasty, Vijaya, also claimed descent from Yadu and took on the name Yadu-Raya. Dr. V. Manickam suggests that Rawal Jaisal who founded the city of Jaisalmer in 1156 A.D hailed from the Yaduvanshi Rajput group. The name of the State of Haryana finds its roots in Abhira and Aranya which means dwelling of the Abhiras (Ahiras or Yadavs).
Yadavs are also a political force to reckon with in Northern India especially in the states of UP and Bihar. Yadavs and Muslims have never got along well historically until the advent of two populist Yadav leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav in UP and Bihar respectively. And both perfected the Muslim-Yadav voter-base formula also known as the M-Y equation. While the Muslim-Yadav formula may have been a political success, it has done very little to calm the tensions between the two communities– Muslims and Yadavs. Be it the Kasganj violence of 2018 or the Bhagalpur riots of 1989, the two communities have often found each other warring on opposite sides in the case of Hindu-Muslim riots. It is this reason among others that makes the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Election an exciting one for political analysts.
Yadavs became a dominant political force in the Post Mandal Era. They were one of the major beneficiaries of positive discrimination towards OBCs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Their ‘quota’ in jobs and education, as well as ‘favorable’ treatment by state governments, helped Yadavs in social mobility. It was during this period that Samajwadi Party and Yadav community found resonance for each other. However, the relationship between the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh and the Samajwadi Party largely remained a transactional one. While Yadavs voted en-masse for the SP in consecutive elections, SP on its part gave unprecedented benefits to the community. It is not uncommon to find members of the Yadav community in plush government jobs in general and the police department in particular. However, this transactional relationship between the SP and Yadav community has been on the decline since 2014. The phenomenal rise of Narendra Modi in Indian national politics changed prevalent equations of Indian politics. The Dalit vote bank of Mulayam’s arch-nemesis Mayawati was first to crumble in the state, but Yadavs couldn’t stay away from the enchantment of Narendra Modi either. Narendra Modi, an OBC himself successfully snatched all other OBCs from the SP. In Uttar Pradesh, a sizeable chunk of the Yadav population voted for the BJP in the 2014 general election. The BJP won a mindboggling 71 seats and SP was left with a measly 5 seats. This trend would repeat in Assembly Elections 2017 and General Elections 2019 as well. SP in the meantime tried alliances with Congress as well as the BSP, only to fail spectacularly on both occasions. Now SP has come up with a new alliance partner, Asaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
AIMIM is an all-Muslim party with nearly no representation from any other community. AIMIM traces its origins from Razakars – the infamous anti-Hindu militia of Hyderabad’s Nawab Osman Ali Shah. Asaduddin Owaisi’s own brother was jailed for hurling abuses at Hindu Gods, including Bhagwan Shri Krishna whom Yadavs love and revere. While It is safe to assume that while AIMIM will appeal to the Muslims, it is going to cause a massive rift in M-Y equation of the Samajwadi Party with more Yadavs dumping the SP to join the Hindutva bandwagon of the BJP. Already, the AIMIM is asking for a Muslim Deputy CM.
Yadavs also have a fear of exclusion. They are well aware of the fact that BJP is nearly invincible, and the community has benefitted at the cost of other OBC communities during the SP rule. In 2018, a leaked copy of Yogi Adityanath’s government’s MBSJC committee report suggested a three-way division of 27 per cent quota provided to OBCs to accommodate the Most Backward and Extremely Backward classes. It is only in the best interest of the Yadav community to join the rest of the OBCs to avoid any exclusion in the future.
This fear of exclusion coupled with the community’s inherent abhorrence for the Muslims is bound to play in UP Assembly Elections 2022. While Samajwadi Party will retain many Yadav voters, most of the Yadav voters are expected to switch sides as soon as an SP-AIMIM alliance is formalized.