In what is being seen as a consolidation of his core Kurmi community beyond Bihar, Chief Minister and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar met Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) leader Krishna Patel in Delhi on Monday.
The Patels are considered part of the larger OBC Koeri-Kurmi class, to which Nitish also belongs.
The meeting, which took place a day after the JD(U) chief attended a joint Opposition rally to mark the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Devi Lal, holds significance, given his efforts to expand the party’s base and make some inroads in UP.
Krishna Patel is wife of Sonelal Patel, who had founded Apna Dal in 1995. After Sonelal’s death in 2009, Krishna was made the party’s national president and daughter Anupriya its national general secretary. The party later split into Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) amid differences between Krishna and Anupriya, who is now an NDA ally and a Minister of State in the Narendra Modi government. Krishna founded Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) in 2020.
If the Opposition front shapes up with Samajwadi Party in it, the JD(U) is looking at eating into Apna Dal (Sonelal) and NDA’s votes in Lok Sabha constituencies with sizeable presence of Kurmi voters.
Following her meeting with Nitish, Krishna told the media in Delhi that Sonelal Patel had a long association with the JD(U) chief.
JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi also told The Indian Express: “Sonelal Patel shared a very warm relationship with us and we had contested the 2007 UP Assembly elections together. Krishna Patel met Nitish Kumar as part of our attempt to widen our coalition.”
While stating that it is early days for Opposition unity, Tyagi said it could crystalise in the coming months.
On JD(U) setting its eyes on UP, Tyagi said, “There is a sizeable Kurmi or Patel population in UP Lok Sabha seats of Varanasi, Bareili, Pilibhit, Hardoi, Kanpur Dehat, Jalaun, Urai, Banda, Bahraich, Fatehpur, Allahabad, Phoolpur, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Pratapgarh, Raebareli, Sultanpur, Amethi, Basti, Sravasti, and Gonda. Anupriya Patel will not pose any challenge once SP comes on board with us.”
The JD(U) has not been able to make any impact in UP state elections since 2007 Assembly polls. In 2022, it had contested more than 50 seats without any success.
As for Apna Dal (K), it could only be a win-win situation if Krishna Patel aligns with a broader umbrella of opposition parties for 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The party claims influence among OBCs — specifically those from Kurmi community — in central and eastern UP districts.
In 2012, Anupriya contested from Rohaniya and was elected the party’s lone MLA in UP Assembly. Her election and following among Kurmi and other non-Yadav OBC voters in eastern and central UP drew attention of BJP’s new top leadership, and the party which joined hands with Apna Dal in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The party contested two seats in Lok sabha 2014 and won both, with Anupriya elected from Mirzapur. Krishna Patel contested from Rohaniya in the subsequent Assembly bypoll — after Anupriya vacated it to retain Lok Sabha membership — but lost.
The rift in the party surfaced when Krishna introduced elder daughter Pallavi in politics and made her the party’s vice-president. Anupriya had called her mother’s decision “illegal and arbitrary”. Later, Krishna removed Anupriya as the party’s general secretary.
In 2016, Anupriya became the patron of the faction Apna Dal (Sonelal) and forged an alliance with BJP for 2017 UP Assembly elections. The party contested 11 seats and won nine. In 2018, her husband Ashish was elected an MLC in UP with BJP’s support. They continued the alliance with BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Anupriya was reelected from Mirzapur.
Last year, she was inducted in the Union ministry as MoS for Commerce and Industry. Apna Dal (S) contested 2022 UP state elections as an NDA ally and Ashish is a minister at present in the Yogi Adityanath government.
Krishna Patel unsuccessfully contested the 2019 General Election on a Congress ticket from Gonda.
Tapping into neighbourhood
JD(U) has long been looking to tap into the sizeable Kurmi population in Purvanchal region of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Kurmis are estimated to form 11% of UP’s population, with presence in nearly 25 Lok Sabha seats, including Allahabad and Varanasi.
With inputs from Lalmani Verma in Lucknow