In the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP)’s president Om Prakash Rajbhar won from Zahoorabad constituency in Ghazipur. The SBSP fought the polls as part of an alliance led by the Akhilesh Yadav-headed Samajwadi Party (SP). The SBSP won 6 seats out of 17 that it contested. Speaking to Asad Rehman, Rajbhar speaks on a host of issues ranging from the recent UP polls to alliance politics, to his party’s future. Excerpts:
Why do you think the SP-led alliance lost the UP polls and the BJP got a comfortable majority?
When a war happens on the border, the two warring countries have different approaches. During the UP elections, our alliance had spoken about free education, free medical treatment for 25 crore people of the state. We had spoken of freeing people of problems like stray cattle, joblessness. We promised a caste census because unless the exercise is done, caste groups won’t get their share. We told the youth that 11 lakh government jobs are vacant in UP, while 22 lakh jobs are vacant in the IT sector. We talked about peace and brotherhood. The uneducated and illiterate segment of the population remembered the “namak ka karz (debt of salt)”. The weaker section, which doesn’t understand the importance of education and free medical treatment, couldn’t understand us, and behaved naively. Some people voted in the name of free ration and salt, while some others who are hardliners and want Hindu-Muslim (division), they voted on these lines. They don’t talk about education and other basic issues. They don’t care of the rising fuel prices. The backwards, Scheduled Castes, and minority communities have still not understood their rights. We had to suffer because of all these things. The last factor was that they (incumbent BJP) had the government machinery which was misused in the polls in their favour. Government officials have helped in the formation of their government.
What will the Opposition do differently in 2024 Lok Sabha elections and in the 2027 Asembly polls to take on the BJP in UP?
The 2024 general election is round the corner, and we are going to have a meeting with Akhilesh Yadav where we will discuss our future strategy. I will be able to answer this question better after our discussion in the meeting. I would like to mention that the SP has tried all ally combinations. It allied with the Congress in the 2017 UP polls and won 47 seats with 29 per cent vote share. When the SP entered into an electoral understanding with Om Prakash Rajbhar and company, it won 125 seats and got 36 per cent vote share. We just need 5-6 per cent more votes to win the UP polls. What I used to say about eastern UP has proved true. The BJP has struggled there. They could not open their account in several districts like Ambedkarnagar, Ghazipur and Azamgarh. In other eastern UP districts too, our alliance did well and won several seats, losing some by a close margin.
How content are you with the SBSP’s performance this time?
We hoped that we will win more seats. We have lost 8 seats where the margin was less than 1,000 votes. I consider it a weakness that we failed to make people understand things, else we would have won at least 14 seats.
Following the election results, there has been speculation that you will go back to allying with the BJP. Your response? Do you see a future with the SP alliance?
When I resigned from the government (previous Yogi Adityanath-led UP government) in 2019, these conversations had started an hour after my resignation – that I will go back (to the BJP coalition) after I get a call from Amit Shah or Modiji. Nothing like that happened.
Similar discussion has started again. The discussion is always dominated by the strong in society. And that is what is happening now.
There have been murmurs of resentment from Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party chief Shivpal Yadav camp. How do you see the developing situation in the SP alliance?
I don’t think there is any truth to the stories of any differences between our allies.
What is your take on Akhilesh Yadav as Leader of Opposition in UP?
This decision is 100 per cent right. He (Akhilesh) should be in the House to fight the people’s battle.
CM Adityanath has allocated portfolios to his ministers. How do you see it?
These allocations have been done on the basis of caste. The ministries have been given based on the traditional occupations of the castes the leaders represent. Like Sanjay Nishad has been given the fisheries portfolio because it is his community’s traditional occupation. The weaker Bhar Rajbhar and poor do work as labour so they have been given the labour ministry. All backward and Dalit leaders have been given departments based on their castes’ traditional occupations. A Pandit (Brahmin) will handle education.