After its poor performance in the assembly elections, when it could win only 19 seats, BSP has chosen to go with mainly Jatav leaders as party coordinators across western Uttar Pradesh, a traditional stronghold. This is after nearly a decade that no prominent Muslim leader is among its coordinators in the region, which has substantial population of the minority community.
Party sources say the biggest worry was the “deteriorating” support for the BSP in the region. Its chief Mayawati hails from Lucknow, and is herself a Jatav, the largest Scheduled Caste in the state.
Party leaders said a section of Jatavs, party’s core supporters, felt alienated from the party as BSP aggressively wooed Muslims and highlighted that it had given tickets to 100 Muslims in the last elections. The sudden popularity of Bhim Army, led by a Jatav youth Chandrashekhar, in Saharanpur, which had remained a BSP bastion for years till 2017 assembly elections, is also being seen as a signal of sections of Jatavs growing discontent with the BSP.
Mayawati has called the Bhim Army “a product of BJP”.
Party’s poor performance in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 2017 assembly elections in the region came amid BJP’s rise during the atmosphere of communal polarisation, which began with 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
Recently Mayawati removed her star campaigner in the elections and party’s Muslim face Naseemuddin Siddiqui who was in-charge of western UP. He was made the party in-charge of Madhya Pradesh instead. However, earlier this month, he was expelled from the party, seriously denting the party’s outreach to the Muslim community.
Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Munquad Ali was party’s west UP in-charge and the face of the organisation in the region for over half-a-decade till the party loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that led to his transfer to eastern UP’s Allahabad, Varanasi and Mirzapur divisions.
In the new set-up, Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Siddharth, a Jatav, is chief coordinator for Meerut, Agra and Aligarh divisions. Another Jatav leader, MLC Sunil Kumar Chittor who has also been appointed the party’s leader in Legislative Council in place of Siddiqui, is main coordinator for Bareilly, Saharanpur and Moradabad divisions.
Shamsuddin Raeen, a low-key party leader from Jhansi, is the only Muslim leader who has been given the responsibility in Bareilly and Moradabad divisions.
Meanwhile, the party has also appointed former MLC Gopal Narain Mishra as party’s in-charge for Lucknow division. Mishra, a relative of BSP national general secretary Satish Chandra Misra, is a lawyer and one of the few Brahmin leaders who have been given responsibility in party organisation. Mishra’s term of Legislative Council ended in 2015.