Updated: November 2, 2021 12:32:55 pm
On Tuesday, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav sealed an alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a former BJP ally. What ramifications can the alliance have for the upcoming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh?
Rajbhar and BJP
In the 2017 Assembly polls, out of the 325 seats in the 403-member House won by the BJP and its allies, the SBSP had won four after contesting in eight. Then BJP chief Amit Shah had held a rally with Rajbhar in Mau in the run-up to the 2017 polls, something that Akhilesh Yadav did on Tuesday.
Rajbhar himself won the Zahoorabad seat in Ghazipur, becoming an MLA for the first time, and was appointed Minister for Backward Classes Welfare. But he resigned soon after, following a sit-in he staged in Ghazipur demanding the removal of then District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Khatri.
Rajbhar said at the time that despite his being a minister, officials didn’t listen to him, and that he had to answer to people. Later, he met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and discussed his issues, but went on to resign.
The eastern UP vote
The Rajbhar community accounts for an estimated 3-4 per cent of UP’s population. This may be a small proportion, but the fact that the community is concentrated in eastern UP — which means a higher proportion of the population in that region — gives it the potential to sway several seats in the upcoming elections. Besides, the SBSP’s support base is not restricted just to the Rajbhar community, but also extends to other Most Backward Classes (MBCs) such as Chauhan, Pal, Prajapati, Vishwakarma, Bhar, Mallah, and Vishwakarma.
Out of 90 seats in eastern UP’s 18 districts, there are around 25-30 constituencies where Rajbhars are high in number, including up to 1 lakh in some of them. In its near-sweep of the state, the BJP gained significantly in eastern UP, growing from 14 seats in 2012 to 72 in 2017, while the SP slipped from 52 to 9. The SBSP itself claims that its influence spreads wider, covering 150 seats, and that the alliance helped the NDA win 146 of these seats.
Rajbhar and SP
Until recently, Rajbhar was heading the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, an alliance of smaller parties for the upcoming elections. In December, Rajbhar announced that the Morcha would include the AIMIM, headed by Asaddudin Owaisi, and that he was also in talks with Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar and Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party president Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle.
However, none of these leaders were present when Rajbhar shared the stage with Akhilesh Yadav in Mau on Tuesday, the party’s 19th foundation day. This is being seen as a possible indication that the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha is falling apart.
Now, SBSP general secretary Arun Rajbhar, the party chief’s son, said the party is confident of ensuring victory for the SP. He said the party will have a say on who wins the seats in a number of districts. Arun Rajbhar named 22 districts — Varanasi, Ghazipur, Mau, Balia, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Basti, Gonda, Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Mirzapur, Ayodhya (which are the 18 in which the BJP won 72 seats in 2017) as well as Shravasti, Bahraich, Kushinagar and Sultanpur.
“The BJP will get less than 100 seats in UP this time. This is what their internal survey has found. Our votes will definitely be transferred to the SP and Akhilesh Yadav will be the next CM,” Arun Rajbhar said.
Among the SBSP’s demands is that a caste-based census should be done to ensure a fair share in reservation, something that Akhilesh Yadav has promised if his party forms the government.
A senior SP leader said that despite the BJP’s attempt to portray the current Minister for Backward Class Welfare, Anil Rajbhar, as the party’s face for the community, his stature is not high enough to be compared to Om Prakash Rajbhar.
Besides the SBSP chief, two other tall leaders from the Rajbhar community — former BSP leader Ram Achal Rajbhar and former Assembly Speaker Sukhdev Rajbhar’s son Kamlakant are now with the SP, raising the party’s hopes of attracting more votes from the Backward Classes.
An SP leader said: “The SBSP’s projection may be different, but there is no doubt that they will help us win 25-30 seats.”
The SP has already forged an alliance with the Mahan Dal Party, which is another party that addresses the Backward Classes, and is headed by Keshav Dev Maurya.
Akhilesh Yadav’s alliances with these smaller parties comes while keeping a distance from the bigger parties such as the BSP and the Congress.
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