Updated: September 1, 2021 12:55:10 pm
SETTING political circles abuzz in poll-poised Uttar Pradesh, BJP state chief Swatantra Dev Singh called on Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav Monday. The BJP leader’s visit comes when the party is hard-pressed to explain its diffidence on a caste census, and is pushing its OBC outreach.
At a condolence meeting held for the late BJP leader Kalyan Singh in Lucknow Tuesday, Swatantra Dev said he had gone to invite Mulayam Singh for the same. The BJP had earlier criticised SP chief Akhilesh Yadav for not visiting to offer his condolences to Kalyan Singh, even as BSP chief Mayawati did so. At the condolence meeting held Tuesday, BSP national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra was present and seated next to Swatantra Dev.
The SP, for its part, claimed that Swatantra Dev was unhappy within the BJP and Mulayam Singh had invited him to join the party.
The BJP held ‘shradhanjali sabhas’ across Uttar Pradesh Tuesday in the memory of Kalyan Singh. Apart from being a Hindutva icon, for being the CM under whom the Babri Masjid was demolished, Kalyan Singh was also an influential OBC leader — and the BJP is trying to reinforce both connections in the run-up to next year’s elections. It has also said that Akhilesh not paying his respects to Kalyan Singh showed he was “anti-OBC”.
Swatantra Dev’s meeting with Mulayam Singh, and not Akhilesh, was also a pointed message to the SP chief. Swatantra Dev tweeted pictures of the meeting, saying he had taken blessings of “Netaji” and enquired about his health and wished for his health and long life.
Akhilesh, in turn, re-tweeted a comment by an SP spokesperson saying “Netaji has offered Swatantra Dev Singh to join Samajwadi Party as he is probably unhappy with the neglect of Dalits and backwards in BJP”. SP spokesperson Manish Jagan Agrawal said there was more to Swatantra Dev’s visit than just a courtesy call.
At the condolence meeting for Kalyan Singh, Swatantra Dev said, “I had visited the founder-leader of the Samajwadi Party to request him to come for the shradhanjali sabha. I also called up Behenji (BSP chief Mayawati). She sent Satish ji (Mishra).”
Referring to Kalyan Singh as a “mahaan neta (big leader)”, Swatantra Dev said over 40 parties had been invited for the condolence meeting. He also claimed that Kalyan Singh felt that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had made Dalits and deprived feel secure in the state, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done so for the country.
Apart from Adityanath, deputy CMs Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and RSS senior functionary Krishna Gopal were present at the meeting.
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