Days after settling disquiet within the NDA in Bihar, the ruling BJP stared at fresh rumblings in its alliance in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh with its junior partner, Apna Dal (S), going public with its frustration with the BJP and demanding a “respectable number” of seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
“In the present situation in UP, workers of all three NDA constituents are disappointed. No one is paying heed to voices of alliance partners. MLAs and ministers too have the same anger. The BJP central leadership should rectify this situation, otherwise the NDA will suffer maximum loss in UP,” Apna Dal (S) national working president Ashish Patel told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
Apna Dal won both the seats it contested in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with BJP. Patel, elected to the UP Legislative Council earlier this year, is married to the party’s MP from Mirzapur, Anupriya Patel, who is also Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare in the Narendra Modi government.
Patel’s outburst comes days after another junior partner of the BJP — the LJP in Bihar — had gone public with its resentment after BJP lost the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress earlier this month. “NDA should take a lesson from the defeats in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Our goal should be to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister again and UP is the most important state towards achieving that goal,” Patel said.
Tri-state defeat gives junior allies more voice
The BJP’s tri-state defeat has given space to its junior partners. Long muted, they are finding their voice. More so in Uttar Pradesh where the proposed SP-BSP alliance has set off talk of fresh political realignments. It’s this state, where NDA has 73 seats, that holds the key to 2019. Sensing that the BJP is on the backfoot, Apna Dal and SBSP are flexing muscles to extract a commitment from the BJP for their share of seats.
The latest provocation seems to be the sidelining of Apna Dal while celebrating initiatives of the government.
“It crossed the limit today…The Chief Minister is laying the foundation stone of a medical college in Siddharth Nagar and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare (Anupriya Patel) has not been invited. It is among the eight medical colleges UP has got approved following an initiative from our leader,” Patel said adding that Anupriya used to get invites for Central government functions when Samajwadi Party was in power in the state but this stopped after BJP came to power in the state.
In particular, Patel claimed, the Apna Dal party leadership has not received any formal invitation so far for December 29, when the PM is visiting Ghazipur to lay the foundation stone of a medical college. “It’s the UP BJP that’s doing all the mischief. If the BJP central leadership does not rectify this on time, we will have to face consequences,” Patel said. Patel alleged that despite an assurance from the BJP central leadership, the Yogi government in UP did not appoint Apna Dal people in the corporations.
Incidentally, on the day of the Ghazipur function, the PM is scheduled to release a postage stamp of Raja Suheldeo, an icon of Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), another junior alliance partner bickering against Yogi Adityanath government in the state.
SBSP principal general secretary and UP organisation in-charge Arvind Rajbhar said, “Mantriji (SBSP president Om Prakash Rajbhar) has also not been invited to the PM’s December 29 programme despite being an MLA from Zahoorabad assembly seat of the same district,” Arvind said.
“Sammanjanak seat milni chahiye…sammanjanak seeton se neeche hum samjhauta nahi karenge. (We should get honourable number of seats. There will be no compromise on fewer than that),” Apna Dal’s Patel asserted on Tuesday.
This was echoed by SBSP’s Arvind Rajbhar: “I have spoken to BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey over delay in announcement of seat sharing. But no response has come yet…We are in such a strong position in UP today that if BJP will not support, there is option of SP-BSP too. Options are open.” He demanded five Lok Sabha seats — Salempur, Ghosi, Machhlishahr, Chandauli, Ambedkarnagar. All these are held by the BJP in the current Lok Sabha.
While Apna Dal contested Lok Sabha elections with the BJP in 2014, the SBSP joined the alliance ahead of 2017 Assembly elections. While Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel is a minister at Centre, both parties are represented in the state government with SBSP chief OP Rajbhar being a cabinet minister in Yogi government. Both these parties are also at odds with each other on another key issue: the “Anya picchda varg samajik nyay samiti (OBC Social Justice Committee) Report” which the state government now wants to push into cold storage ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
That report is said to have recommended categorisation of OBCs in three groups: backward classes ( 9 castes), more backward classes (33 castes) and most backward classes (37 castes) and provide quota by 7 per cent, 11 per cent and 9 per cent to castes in these three categories respectively totalling 27 per cent quota fixed for OBCs.
Said Ashish Patel: “We are not against categorisation but want benefit for all. First, the caste census should be done and then categorisation should be done according to population. On which grounds that committee has done the categorisation?” SBSP, in contrast, has started statewide protests calling for making the report public and working on its implementation.
Meanwhile, reacting to Patel’s remarks, BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey said: “BJP respects both Apna Dal (S) leader Anupriya Patel and party president Ashish Patel. BJP and Apna Dal (S) have cordial relations. Even after this, if he has any complaint, if he has faced any problem on any issue, cognizance of the matter will be taken and will be resolved appropriately.”