A meeting between NDA ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh on a possible alliance in the Lok Sabha elections has set off alarm bells in the ruling BJP, it is learnt. Hours after the meeting, BJP leaders reached out to the Apna Dal leadership to stop it from switching sides and assured that it would address pending issues.
Apna Dal (S) patron and Union Minister Anupriya Patel and party working president Ashish Patel recently met Congress general secretary in-charge for western UP Jyotiraditya Scindia in Delhi immediately after the deadline the Apna Dal (S) had given the BJP ended on Wednesday.
Rumblings within the NDA constituent began a few weeks ago after leaders claimed they were being ignored by the Centre and the BJP. Sources said BJP UP co-in charge Gordhan Zadaphia on Friday contacted Patel and assured him of a meeting soon to discuss all issues.
A day after the deadline given to the BJP expired, Union minister Anupriya Patel said on Thursday in Bareilly, “We faced some problems with the BJP and we put that before the top leadership and gave them time until February 20. But they did not address these problems which indicate that BJP does not care about the grievances of its allies and has no interest in resolving them. Hence, the Apna Dal (S) is now free to choose its own path.”
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Ashish Patel said, “We want the NDA to form the government again in 2019 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We tried for this. We had given time until February 20. But we were not approached and no action was taken to address our grievances. Now, we are free to take a decision. A meeting of party leaders has been called on February 28 and a final decision will be taken in that meeting.”
While declining to comment on the meeting with Scindia, he said: “Options remain open in politics.” Asked about reaching out to Apna Dal (S) leaders, Zadaphia said: “We often meet and talk. There are no issues and alliance is intact,” adding that all alliance parties were with the BJP.
The Apna Dal (S) has the support of OBC voters in eastern UP, where the Congress is looking to revive its fortunes in the run-up of the Lok Sabha elections.
The Apna Dal (S) is part of the government at the Centre as well as the UP state government but recently, along with another NDA ally, Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), has expressed discontent. Earlier, after the SBSP recently threatened to quit the NDA, BJP chief Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held a meeting with SBSP leaders Wednesday in New Delhi.