The doublespeak of Samajwadi Party: A historical perspective

The Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh has often been clubbed together with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) under the rhetoric of Bahujan politics or subaltern politics. The just concluded assembly elections in UP also witnessed the inclusion of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in this category. However, this is a gross misrepresentation of the truth and has real socio-economic repercussions.

The SP caters to the interests of a particular family and a zamindar caste. It rose to power on the back of socialist stalwarts such as Ram Manohar Lohia, VP Singh & Chandrashekhar, but finally sidelined the legacies of these leaders. Run by the family of Mulayam Singh Yadav, it has always been an Ahir-centric party. Unlike Dalits, Ahirs are a zamindar caste going back to Mughal era. Humayun granted Afariya Ahirs the zamindari of Tijara after defeating the Yaduvanshi Rajput Khanzadas. Similarly, an Ahir aristocrat of Rewari was granted governorship of Rewari by Jehangir in the 17th century (Phadke, H. A. (1990). Haryana: Ancient and Medieval. p. 173). A good number of Ahirs were granted zamindaris by Turks and Afghans in exchange for help against Kshatriyas (S D S Yadava, Followers of Krishna, p. 82) from the early 16th century onwards.

Bindheshwari Prasad Mandal, the 6th Chief Minister of Bihar, was also a wealthy Ahir zamindar. It was his monumental role that helped many North Indian zamindar castes gain Backward Caste status which was originally meant for landless and occupational communities such as Suthars, Sonars, Telis, Pasis etc. The social problem of 1% OBC castes cornering 50% OBC reservation is an outcome of this. Similarly, these zamindar castes, who make up 1% of OBC also disproportionately control the OBC discourse. As Professor Dipankar Gupta pointed out that despite the Ahirs being economically well off, the Mandal Commission Report ‘totally ignored economic criteria and emphasized only social criteria’. This move resulted in a strategic advancement of interests of castes like the Ahirs. Another argument given then, and even now, to continue reservation benefits for these zamindar castes, was never the lack of institutional representation but their claim of Shudra varna (Refer: Shri Krishna Singh vs Mathura Ahir Ors on 21 Dec 1979). While mentioning the political hegemony of Ahirs, Ram Manohar Lohia mentions that Ahirs were Shudras and were often called Gop (Rammanohar Lohia, Lohia ke Vichaar, p. 120)

To understand the politics of Samajwadi Party, one needs to understand Yadav politics which goes back to the formation of All India Ahir Yadav Mahasabha in 1920. The Mahasabha headed by Rao Bahadur Balbir Singh, the Rao of Rewari, passed a resolution that all Ahirs, Ahars, Kamariyas, Gwals, Ghoshis must come together to form a new caste – the Yadav caste (Christophe Jaffrelot, India’s Silent Revolution, p. 189). This modern Yadav caste is unrelated to the early mediaeval Yaduvanshi (Rajput) clan, whose inscriptions are found across the region of Braj and Chambal from the 9th century CE.

The Samajwadi Party’s major quest has been a Kshatriya identity for the Ahir community. On one hand, SP leaders evoke ‘Shudra’-hood to remain beneficiaries of Bahujan politics, on the other they boast of a Yaduvanshi Kshatriya identity. This is also why former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav was seen promising Pratihar Kshatriya history to Gujjars and Chauhan Kshatriya history to Noniya caste. In her book published in 2002, Prof Lucia Michelutti highlighted the extreme contradictions in narratives put forward by Ahir intellectuals – they constantly shifted their narrative from being a historically oppressed community like Dalits to actually being a Kshatriya caste– based upon convenience (Michelutti, Politics of Yadav community Formation, p. 121-123) . On one hand, they claimed that Ahirs were descendants of Mahishasur , but on the other hand they claimed that they were Yadavs (a Kshatriya clan).

However the Ahirs have a very strong caste lobby in media and academia. Their strong presence has neutralised any discussions on the politics of doublespeak and flagrant abuse of Subaltern politics. The Samajwadi party’s politics of caste hegemony is best exemplified by the unresolved Badaun case of 2014, which involved seven Ahir (who now use Yadav as last name) policemen. Justice was denied and the case was closed after acquitting all of the accused. The film Article 15 (2019) by Anubhav Sinha was a retelling of the same case, although it replaces Ahir cops with a Thakur cop as antagonist. While Samajwadi Party exploits social justice jargons to caricature all Brahmins, Banias and Kshatriyas as oppressors, its own records have remained abysmal. For instance, many Dalits near Mathura were attacked on 20th February 2022 by RLD-SP activists for not having voted as per instructions in the first phase of UP elections.

Often Liberals and even Leftists club casteist parties like SP, RLD, RJD and INLD due to the rhetoric of farmers, backward or Shudra politics ignoring that these are parties of mediaeval zamindar castes, whose socio-economic conditions are closer to Brahmins than the Dalits while they simultaneously claim a Kshatriya identity. The rise of SP and fall of BSP in this election is worrying because it signals that the hegemony of these zamindar castes is now unchallenged, making it even more difficult to mitigate the damage SP’s politics has had on social justice and access to resources for Dalit communities.


क्षत्रिय सामाजिक, राजनीतिक और धार्मिक चेतना मंच।

Jai Ramdev ji | Jai Tejaji |JaiGogaji |Jai Jambho ji| Jai Dulla Bhati | Jai Banda Bahadur |

Important Links

Contact Us

© 2023 kshatriyavoice

Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart