Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is facing a challenge retaining alliances with two regional parties in Uttar Pradesh — Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP). While the Apna Dal (S) has said “it is free to take a decision”, the SBSP has given an ultimatum that it will quit the NDA if its concerns are not addressed.
Apna Dal & Apna Dal (S)
The parent party is Apna Dal, formed in 1995 by late Sonelal Patel, a popular leader among Kurmis, a backward caste with a presence in eastern UP and Bundelkhand. The breakaway Apna Dal (Sonelal) is headed by patron Anupriya Patel, Sonelal’s daughter and now Union minister. It claims to enjoy the support of Kurmis as well as non-Yadav OBC groups such as Kushwaha, Maurya, Nishad, Pal and Saini in these areas. The parent party failed to win any seat in the 2007 Assembly polls when it contested 39 seats, or in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when it contested 29. In 2012, it contested 76 Assembly seats and won its first, Rohania in Varanasi, with Anupriya elected.
The Apna Dal tied up with the BJP in 2014 and won both Lok Sabha seats it contested. Anupriya, who won Mirzapur by 2.19 lakh votes, vacated her Assembly seat; her mother Krishna lost the bypoll. After Anupriya broke away, her Apna Dal (S). continued the alliance with the BJP. In the 2017 Assembly elections, it contested 11 seats and won 9; one of these winners is now a minister. These 9 seats are segments of a clutch of Lok Sabha constituencies with significant numbers of Kurmi voters.
Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party
The SBSP is headed by president Om Prakash Rajbhar, now a minister in UP. He used to be state president of the Apna Dal’s youth wing. Like Apna Dal (S), the SBSP identifies with non-Yadav, backward-classes voters. It estimates that one-third of UP’s voters are non-Yadav OBCs and claims it has the support from many of these groups including Prajapati, Pal, Rajbhar, Chauhan, Dhangar, Bind, Kevat, Mallah and Kurmi too.
Rajbhar left the Apna Dal when Sonelal Patel denied him an election ticket. The SBSP lost a series of elections — an Assembly bypoll in 2003, 12 Lok Sabha seats in 2004, 97 Assembly seats in 2007, 16 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 (with the Apna Dal as ally), 52 Assembly seats in 2012 and 12 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
In 2016, at a programme organised by Rajbhar in Mau, BJP president Amit Shah announced the alliance between the two parties. The SBSP contested 8 Assembly seats in 2017 and won 4 including Rajbhar’s seat; the other 3 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes.
Why they are upset
Sources in the two parties alleged their workers are not being appointed to UP corporations and boards, and pointed out no discussion has been held for Lok Sabha seat-sharing.
“The Apna Dal (S) has followed alliance dharma with honesty. But now we are free to take a decision. A meeting of all party functionaries has been called on February 28 to take a decision for the future,” Apna Dal (S) national working president Ashish Patel, Anupriya’s husband, told The Indian Express.
Rajbhar has warned that the SBSP will quit the NDA if the BJP does not agree to his demands within 48 hours. Recently, he offered to quit as UP Minister for Backward Classes, reportedly over the selection of nominees to the State Backward Classes Commission. He has also demanded a central sub-quota for most backward castes within the 27% OBC quota. Sources said the SBSP is demanding five seats that are currently with BJP MPs.
Why it matters
With an SP-BSP alliance in place, and the Congress having tied up with the Mahan Dal with an eye on non-Yadav votes, the support of such parties becomes crucial to the BJP. In Phulpurx, where the Apna Dal (S) enjoys support, the BJP lost to the SP-BSP in a Lok Sabha bypoll last year.
Amit Shah has held meetings with SBSP leaders at his home, with UP CM Yogi Adityanth present. Rajbhar has a public meeting in Varanasi on February 24.