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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

OBC swap: Second UP minister quits, eyes SP; BJP gets 2 MLAs

Rattled by exits, BJP readies campaign to reach out to OBCs, SCs

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow |
Updated: January 13, 2022 10:59:17 am
(Right to left) Former Cong MLA Naresh Saini with UP Dy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

A day after OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya resigned as minister from the Yogi Adityanath government and met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, the BJP was jolted again Wednesday when Dara Singh Chauhan, another UP cabinet minister, resigned and met Akhilesh Yadav, indicating that he too was headed there.

Chauhan is a former head of the BJP’s OBC Morcha. Like Maurya, he has a BSP past.

Also Wednesday, Avtar Singh Bhadana, BJP MLA from Meerapur in Muzaffarnagar, joined the RLD, an ally of the SP in this election. Bhadana was with the Congress earlier and had been elected four times to Lok Sabha. A leader of the RLD said Bhadana will be contesting this Assembly election too.

There was relief, however, in the BJP camp when Naresh Saini, Congress MLA from Behat in Saharanpur, and Hariom Yadav, SP MLA from Sirsaganj in Firozabad, along with former SP MLA Dharampal Yadav, joined the ruling party in New Delhi.

Representing the Madhuban constituency in Mau, Chauhan was Minister for Forest, Environment and Animal Husbandry in the Adityanath government.

In his resignation letter, almost identical to one submitted by Maurya a day earlier, Chauhan said he was upset with the government’s “neglect” of Dalits, backwards, deprived, farmers and unemployed youths, and with the “khilwad” (not being serious) on reservation for backwards and Dalits.

Must Read |High-profile exit dents BJP’s OBC push, forces rethink

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who had urged Swami Prasad Maurya a day earlier to hold talks and not act in haste, also urged Chauhan to “reconsider”.

Calling Chauhan his “elder brother”, Maurya, in a Twitter post, said: “When a member of the family goes astray, that hurts. I will request those leaving not to board a sinking ship because it will be their loss.”

Rattled by these exits, the BJP, sources said, has decided to depute its OBC and Scheduled Caste leaders to each Assembly constituency to reach out to communities and spread the word that the party is their well-wisher.

Sources said efforts will also be made during the Samajik Sampark campaign to persuade those associated with the BSP and SP to join the BJP.

BJP OBC Morcha state president Narendra Kashyap said the Samajik Sampark campaign had nothing to do with the “current circumstances” and it was decided earlier that it would start January 14.

“This is a mega campaign for dialogue with every community in society. It will formally start from January 14. It has already started in certain districts. Earlier, grand sammelans of the Morcha had been held in all 75 districts of the state,” he said.

Also Read |UP Assembly Elections Primer: With plank of development, Hindutva, Yogi eyeing second term as CM

Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav, after meeting Chauhan, called him a “soldier of social justice” and welcomed him to the SP. “Sabko samman, sabko sthan,” he wrote on Twitter, posting a photograph of their meeting.

From a backward caste, Chauhan began his political career with the BSP and later joined the SP. He was elected to Rajya Sabha for two terms.

Later, he returned to the BSP and became Ghosi MP in 2009 and leader of the BSP parliamentary party in Lok Sabha. In 2014, he contested again from Ghosi but lost to the BJP.

After his expulsion from BSP, he joined the BJP in 2015. Soo after, he impressed BJP leader Amit Shah by organising a huge rally of backwards at Azamgarh’s polytechnic grounds — Shah was chief guest at that rally. A few days later, Chauhan was appointed national president of BJP’s OBC Morcha.

The BJP handed him the Assembly ticket from Madhuban in 2017 and, following his win, inducted him as a minister in the Adityanath government.

“But he was not comfortable with BJP workers. He used to move with those who had been with him from his BSP days. The BJP cadre was upset with him. He had started airing his displeasure with the government six months ago. The BJP had not involved him in its Jan Vishwas Yatra when it travelled through Mau district,” a BJP leader in Mau said.

On November 22 last year, Chauhan had posted a message on social media to greet SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav on his birthday. In that message, he had hailed Yadav as a leader of the poor and the backward.

Of the two MLAs who joined BJP Wednesday, Hariom Yadav is a two-term MLA from Sirsaganj in Firozabad district. While the BJP had won the four other seats in the district in 2017, Yadav was the lone SP winner. He is a relative of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Naresh Saini, the other MLA to join BJP, is an OBC leader. As a candidate of the Congress-SP alliance in 2017, he had defeated BJP’s Mahaveer Singh Rana.

Meanwhile, a day after his exit from the BJP, Swami Prasad Maurya rejected reports that the party was trying to convince him to return.

“After the resignation, this is meaningless talk. I am firm on my decision. In politics, one should not go back on decisions. I will clear my position on January 14,” he said.

On Tuesday, following Maurya’s exit, at least three other BJP MLAs — Roshan Lal Verma, Brijesh Prajapati and Bhagwati Prasad Sagar – said they would follow him. Maurya indicated that more from the BJP would join him.

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