The elections in Uttar Pradesh are still a year away, but the ruling Samajwadi Party in state has already won a chunk of votes and lost another in Agra.
On Monday, SP candidate from Agra Rural Assembly constituency, Hemlata Diwakar Kushwaha defected to BJP, just two days after BJP corporator Kundanika Sharma, who was granted bail in a case of hate speech at a condolence meet for a VHP leader, joined the ruling party. Kundanika was immediately declared SP candidate from Agra North seat for the 2017 polls.
SP had named Hemlata as party candidate from Agra Rural (reserved) constituency in the first list of 142 candidates it had announced last month. She had unsuccessfully contested from the same seat on SP ticket in 2012, losing to BSP candidate by around 18,000 votes.
According to sources, Agra MP and Union Minister of State for HRD Ram Shanker Katheria played a key role in Hemlata’s defection to BJP and she is likely to contest the forthcoming Assembly polls as BJP nominee from either Agra Rural or Agra Cantonment seats (both reserved for Scheduled Caste).
Hemlata belongs to Scheduled Caste while her husband is from backward caste.
Soon after joining BJP in presence of party president Keshav Prasad Maurya, Hemlata told The Indian Express that she quit SP because of ‘groupism’ in the party. “There was a wave in favour of SP in 2012 still I lost the election because of differences and groupism within the organisation in Agra. The situation still persists in the party’s district organisation,” Hemlata said.
She said she decided to join BJP after seeing an OBC leader take charge as party’s state president. Admitting that Katheria too played an important role in her switching over to the BJP, Hemlata said she was in touch with the Union Minister since after 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Contacted, SP’s Agra district president, Ram Sahai Yadav denied allegations of groupism in party organisation and claimed that Hemlata quit because she had got feedback that public was not happy with her and she will lose the elections in 2017. “She had stopped movement in public after 2012 elections. Her interaction with the cadres was also not much still the party regarded her and announced her candidature for 2017 elections. But, she left SP fearing defeat in elections,” Yadav said.
Meanwhile, Maurya said that Hemlata joining the BJP was an indication that there was anti-SP wave in the state and the ruling party was going to lose power in next elections.