After the BJP announced Narendra Modi’s candidature from Varanasi, Apna Dal, a small regional party with a significant following among the Kurmi caste, especially the Patel community in and around Varanasi, is suddenly back in focus with its popular tag of “game spoiler” in eastern UP.
Led by its general secretary Anupriya Patel, an MLA from Rohaniya Assembly constituency in Varanasi, Apna Dal party leaders have been camping in Delhi for the past 20 days to enter into an alliance with a “national party.”
Credited for diverting as many as 50,000 to one lakh votes – from seven to eight significant constituencies – in its favour in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Apna Dal could disturb caste equations once again in the upcoming elections what with its following among the Kurmi caste to which Modi himself belongs.
It is this understanding that has left the BJP uncertain towards Apna Dal’s “frequent requests” to form an alliance even as talks between the two parties have so far failed to make any headway. Talks, similarly, did take place with the Congress but the party has already declared its candidates from almost all the seats that Apna Dal had been seeking as an alliance partner.
It, however, remains hopeful of an alliance with the saffron party. “There is a better chance with the BJP, with which we have had alliance in the past (in 2007 Assembly elections). (Candidates from) some of the seats that we are seeking in alliance have not yet been declared by the BJP. These include Phulpur, Mirzapur and Pratapgarh,” said a party leader.
In case nothing positive comes out of the “ongoing discussions on the alliance,” sources in Apna Dal say Anupriya then might consider contesting against Modi from Varanasi in alliance with other smaller regional parties.
If she could get “close to one lakh votes from the Patel community” living in the two rural Assembly segments in Varanasi (Rohaniya and Sevapuri), a possibility her party believes will prove true, the sources add that the 33-year-old could catapult Apna Dal into national spotlight.
Anupriya is the daughter of Apna Dal founder Sone Lal Patel, who was also one of the founding members of the BSP but defected when Mayawati took charge in 1995 and formed Apna Dal to cater to the interest of Kurmis, especially the Patels in eastern UP. Anupriya took charge in October 2009 after Sone Lal died in a road mishap.