The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has continued to shrink in both Houses of the Uttar Pradesh Legislature, has lost a slew of its prominent leaders in recent years, who either quit the party or were expelled by party supremo Mayawati for their alleged anti-party activities. However, many of these leaders have managed to get remarkable positions in their new parties, which include the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal Opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress.
Last Saturday, the Congress appointed Brijlal Khabri as the new UP Pradesh Congress Committee (UPPCC) president. A senior Dalit leader and ex-MP, Khabri, 61, had joined the BSP at a young age. He won the Jalaun parliamentary seat on the BSP ticket in 1999. The BSP later nominated him to the Rajya Sabha. He also served as the BSP’s national general secretary. In October 2016, he quit the BSP and joined the Congress in the run-up to the 2017 UP Assembly polls.
As part of its UPPCC rejig, the Congress also appointed six regional presidents, entrusting the charge of the Awadh region to Nakul Dubey, a former BSP minister. Dubey was a prominent Brahmin leader in the BSP, who had travelled across UP ahead of the Assembly polls earlier this year as part of the party’s campaign for “bhaichara” between Brahmins and Dalits. He had entered politics by joining the BSP in 2002. Soon after the 2022 polls, however, Mayawati expelled him from the party on charges of alleged indiscipline and anti-party activities.
Former BSP leader Nasimuddin Siddiqui has also been named as one of the UPPCC regional heads. Siddiqui has been appointed by the Congress as the in-charge of western UP. He was once a confidant of Mayawati and the BSP’s most prominent Muslim face. He had also been an influential cabinet minister in the Mayawati-led BSP government during 2012-17. After its 2017 Assembly poll debacle, the BSP expelled him. Subsequently, he joined the Congress.
The Deputy Chief Minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government, Brajesh Pathak, who had served as a cabinet minister in the previous Yogi government too, had won his first election from the Unnao parliamentary constituency in 2004 on the BSP ticket. A key member of the BSP’s erstwhile team of Brahmin leaders, Pathak was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the party in 2008. He switched to the BJP in August 2016. The BSP had then claimed it had expelled him. The BJP fielded him from Lucknow Central in the 2017 Assembly elections, which he won. He was then inducted as the law minister into the Yogi government 1.0. In the Yogi government 2.0, he was elevated as the Deputy CM, even as the saffron party projected him as its Brahmin face in the government.
Nand Gopal Gupta ‘Nandi’, who is currently a cabinet minister in the Adityanath government with important portfolios, had joined the BJP ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls. He was also a minister in the previous BJP government. He had started his political career with the BSP in 2007, when he was elected as the MLA from Allahabad South and subsequently became a minister in the Mayawati government. He lost the election on the BSP ticket in 2012. In 2014, the BSP expelled him from the party.
Several former BSP leaders have also joined the SP in recent years, with the Akhilesh Yadav-led party mounting a bid to make an outreach to non-Yadav communities.
A prominent OBC leader, Swami Prasad Maurya, who had joined the BJP in August 2016 after a long association with the BSP, had been a minister in the previous Adityanath cabinet. But ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls, Maurya resigned from the BJP and joined the SP fold. However, he lost the Assembly poll on the SP ticket. The SP later nominated him to the UP Legislative Council.
Another BSP veteran and Dalit leader, Indrajeet Saroj, who had been a minister in the Mayawati government, quit the party after he lost his election in 2017. Later that year, he joined the SP, which appointed him as the party’s national general secretary. Ahead of the 2022 polls, Saroj led a “Janadesh” yatra for the party. He also won in the election and has now become the deputy leader of the SP Legislature Party in the Assembly.
Last year, Akhilesh Yadav constituted an SP wing for the Scheduled Castes, “Samajwadi Baba Saheb Ambedkar Vahini”, and appointed a former BSP leader Mithai Lal Bharti as its head. Before joining the SP in September 2019, Bharti had worked with the BSP for more than two decades in various positions.
Another prominent OBC leader from eastern UP, Om Prakash Rajbhar, who helms the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), too began his political innings with the BSP as a gram sabha president. He later became the BSP’s Varanasi district president. He lost the election in the 1991 Assembly polls from Varanasi’s Kolasla seat on a BSP ticket. He later switched to the Apna Dal and went on to launch the SBSP in 2002.
Rajbhar got elected as an MLA for the first time in 2017 when his party contested the Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP. He also joined the BJP government as a cabinet minister but walked out of the alliance later. He joined hands with the SP in 2022, but parted ways after their alliance could not beat the incumbent BJP. Rajbhar has been on a “savdhan yatra” since September 26, which he would lead through UP and Bihar over one month.