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Monday, January 18, 2021

Rajbhar’s 2022 gameplan: Smaller parties in UP coalesce to form ‘formidable’ fifth front

According to the SBSP leaders, nine political parties, including All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi, Apna Dal faction of Krishna Patel, Rashtroday Party, Rashtriya Bhagidari Party, Janta Kranti Party among others, have agreed to come together.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow | January 7, 2021 3:28:28 am
om prakash rajbhar, yogi adityanath, Om Prakash Rajbhar news, uttar pradesh, lok sabha elections, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, BJP, SBSP, India newsOm Prakash Rajbhar in Lucknow. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

With the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh a year away, and the four big parties in the state – the ruling BJP, Samajwadi Party (SP), BSP and Congress – giving no indication of forming an alliance with any of them, the attempt by Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar to stitch together a rainbow alliance of smaller parties has slowly started to take shape.

According to the SBSP leaders, nine political parties, including All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi, Apna Dal faction of Krishna Patel, Rashtroday Party, Rashtriya Bhagidari Party, Janta Kranti Party among others, have agreed to come together.

Now, Rajbhar is keen to rope in Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) of Shivpal Yadav, Azad Samaj Party of Chandrashekhar Azad and Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to emerge as fifth “formidable” political front under the banner of ‘Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha’in the 2022 Assembly elections.

“We are scheduled to meet Chandrashekhar Azad soon. We are also in touch with Shivpal Yadav. On January 10, our party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar is expected to meet Asaduddin Owaisi in Delhi. We could hold a joint rally in Varanasi by January 15 to kickstart our campaign for the upcoming panchayat election and the 2022 Assembly elections,” Om Prakash Rajbhar’s son Arun, who holds the post of general secretary in the party, told The Indian Express.

On the party’s talks with AAP, which recently announced to contest the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Arun said: “We have held three to four sessions of talks with AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. A final decision will be taken by Arvind Kejriwal, who is expected to meet Om Prakash Rajbhar soon.”

Confirming that AAP is in talks with the SBSP, Sanjay Singh, the party’s UP in-charge, said their talks have so far been limited to the issues in the state and not related to the elections or a possible alliance. “It is too early to talk about any alliance at this point,” the AAP leader added.

The SBSP also said that the party is in talks with Peace Party of Mohammad Ayub. However, Ayub told The Indian Express, that his party would go “solo” in the next year’s UP elections as his “experience of an alliance was bad in 2019”.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Ayub’s Peace Party had tied up with Mahan Dal and Nishad Party which is now with the BJP.
However, the SBSP has not ruled out any alliance with either the Samajwadi Party or BSP. “Be it the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party, if they agree with our thinking, the Morcha will be open to join hands with them. Our party wants those who desire peace in the state and maintain the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb to come together so that what happened in Bihar is not repeated in Uttar Pradesh,” Arun said, pointing to the loss of Mahaghatbandhan of RJD, Left parties and Congress in the state in the recently concluded Assembly elections.

“In 2017 (Assembly elections), we transferred Rajbhar and other OBC votes to the BJP, leading to their victory. If one has to defeat the BJP, they will need us. The SP cannot win just by the Yadav-Muslim votes. It needs Rajbhars, Kushwahas, Chauhans, Pals, Prajapatis, Binds etc, and all these communities have come together under our banner,” Arun said.

According to sources in the SBSP, talks with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav earlier had hit the roadblock over seat-sharing. Sources said that while the SBSP demanded more than 40 seats, the Samajwadi Party was ready to give them just four seats – the same four seats on which the SBSP won in 2017 Assembly elections in alliance with the BJP.

However, SBSP general secretary said there was no issue of seat-sharing “as of now”. “We are trying to bring together everyone who has a similar political outlook. Seat sharing is not that important now. The leaders would have to take a decision on seat-sharing when the election is closer,” Arun added.

The SBSP, which tied up with the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, made an exit from the alliance five years alter. After a protracted tussle between the BJP and the SBSP, Om Prakash Rajbhar was removed as Backward Class Minister from the UP Cabinet just a day after the final phase polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The party enjoys significant support of Rajbhar and other OBC communities in the eastern part of the state. Rajbhars constitute around 17-18 per cent of the population in the Purvanchal region. The party wields influence in districts like Ghazipur, Mau, Varanasi, Ballia, Maharajganj and some parts of Shrawasti, Ambedkarnagar, Bahraich and Chandauli. In 2017 UP Assembly elections, the SPSP contested eight seats and won in four with around 34.14 per cent vote share.

For 2022 Assembly elections, the party claimed to have started laying the groundwork in around 120 seats, spread across 20 districts in eastern UP.

Meanwhile, the UP unit chief of AIMIM, Shaukat Ali said they have already started preparations on more than 100 seats, focusing mainly on western UP districts like Moradabad, Amroha, Sambhal, Bareilly and Ghaziabad that has a substantial Muslim population. “We are new here, but if the Morcha is successful with more political parties coming with us, we will stop the BJP for sure,” said Ali.

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