Updated: June 23, 2016 7:56:08 am
The exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, the BSP leader who quit Wednesday accusing Mayawati of deceiving Dalits and taking bribes for election tickets, leaves the party with the task of finding a new backward-caste face with months to go for the assembly elections in UP.
Maurya, 62, was the strongest leader the BSP could bank on for the votes of non-Yadav OBCs, a politically crucial group that has been traditionally behind the party but over which its hold is reducing. Of the eight MLAs the BSP has sacked this month, four have been non-Yadav OBCs, with some having deserted the party before their expulsion.
Maurya belongs to the biggest caste group among OBCs after Yadavs and Kurmis. Known by the surnames Kachhi, Maurya, Kushwaha, Saini and Shakya, this group is present in most assembly seats from east to west UP. Maurya had been strategically groomed by the BSP to attract these votes. Since the expulsion in 2011 of former minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, who belongs to the same caste group, Maurya was the undeclared OBC face of the party.
The BSP sent eight MLAs from this caste group in 2012. Party sources say some of them are likely to desert the BSP as most of them are uncertain about being renominated. Last week, the party had expelled the MLA from Shivpur in Varanasi district, Uday Lal Maurya.
Some see the BSP as having given up on this group. With the BJP showcasing PM Narendra Modi as an OBC and appointing Keshav Prasad Maurya as state president, BSP leaders are no longer certain how much support they will get from these voters.
Maurya, Leader of the Opposition in UP, has been a minister in three governments, and was BSP state president before being elevated to national general secretary in 2012. A Buddhist and a follower of Ambedkar, he was well-versed in the BSP’s ideological principles. His is the most high-profile of the dozen or so desertions since the 2014 polls.
A lawyer and a resident of Pratapgarh district, Maurya had started his politics as a member of the Lok Dal’s youth wing in 1980. In 1991, he joined the Janata Dal. He was state general secretary when he quit the Janata Dal, opposing its alliance with the Samajwadi Party and joining the BSP on January 2, 1996.
Elected state BSP president in 2008, Maurya grew in stature in the BSP following the expulsion of Kushwaha, an accused in the National Rural Health Mission scam. He was named the party’s national general secretary in 2012. He was the only BSP leader whom Mayawati had authorised to speak to the media, and he often held press conferences to attack the state government.
Mayawati has said Maurya was upset about the denial of party tickets to his son and daughter for the elections. According to party sources, Maurya started to get disillusioned when he was told he would not be renominated from Padrauna in 2017. He was asked instead to prepare to contest from Unchahar in Rae Bareli, the seat his son Utkrisht had lost in 2012. Maurya had reportedly been lobbying for his son’s renomination. His daughter Sanghmitra, who had unsuccessfully contested from Aliganj of Etah district in 2012, was not being considered either, said a party leader.
On Wednesday, Maurya said he felt suffocated as he could not raise his voice for the party workers and the public. In the last two years, he said, he had felt slighted by BSP coordinators who he believed were running the show as mere “managers” without enjoying any popular support.
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