He started his political career with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and now, for the second time since the Assembly elections earlier this year, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) president Om Prakash Rajbhar has praised the Mayawati-led party and expressed a wish to join hands with it for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The latest expression of interest from Rajbhar came on Saturday after he ended his party’s alliance with the Samajwadi Party. SBSP insiders said Rajbhar was mulling over an alliance with the BSP to firm up an electoral tie-up between the Mayawati-led party’s Jatav Dalit vote base and the SBSP’s Most Backward Castes (MBCs) vote bank in eastern UP.
Concerned about its shrinking vote share and declining numbers in the UP Assembly, the BSP requires new social and political alliances to rejuvenate itself before the 2024 general elections. And the key to its plans may be the support of MBCs and Muslims.
In the Azamgarh Lok Sabha bypoll last month, BSP candidate Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali finished third and damaged the SP’s prospects. “Jamali is a local leader and connected to people. He got the votes of Muslims and Dalits but lost because the most backward castes did not vote for him and these votes went to the BJP,” said a local BSP leader, adding that if MBCs and Dalits came together they could emerge as kingmakers. The party, however, has not officially commented on Rajbhar’s overtures.
Sources in the SBSP said Rajbhar had held discussions with a senior BSP leader at least twice after the Assembly poll results to explore the possibility of a tie-up between their outfits.
SBSP principal general secretary Arvind Rajbhar said, “Possibilities are always there in politics. Our job is to make efforts. It is the opinion of our national president that a discussion should be held with the BSP chief. Our ideologies and principles are the same. Kanshiram ji had introduced him (Rajbhar) to politics and he was inspired by the thoughts of Kanshiram ji.”
Arvind Rajbhar said if MBCs and Dalits came together, Muslims too might join in to defeat the BJP in Lok Sabha polls. There were more than 60 MBCs in the state, the SBSP leader said, with the Rajbhar community making up 3 per cent of the state’s population. The Rajbhars, he said, had a presence in almost 125 Assembly seats and a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in eastern UP. A little more support from other communities may push the SBSP to victory in 62 Assembly seats, according to the party leadership’s calculations.
“The SBSP’s ideology matches with the BSP. We both work for Dalits, MBCs, and minorities. Om Prakash Rajbhar ji worked with Kanshiram ji,” Arvind Rajbhar said.
Beginnings in BSP
Om Prakash Rajbhar started his political career with the BSP as a gram sabha president and later became the outfit’s Varanasi district president. He lost the Assembly election in 1991 from the Kolasla seat in Varanasi on a BSP ticket. Soon after Mayawati came to power in 1995, Rajbhar staged an 18-day sit-in against her government for allegedly ignoring the interests of MBCs and working for only one section of Dalits.
He eventually left the BSP and joined the Apna Dal and became state president of its youth wing. When Apna Dal founder Sonelal Patel denied him a ticket from Kolasla, Rajbhar quit the party.
In 2002, he launched the SBSP. Rajbhar became an MLA for the first time only in 2017 when the party contested the Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP. Last week, after the Yogi Adityanath government granted him Y-category security cover, SP leaders claimed Rabhar would return to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance as “all he wants is power”.