Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sacked Om Prakash Rajbhar, chief of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), BJP’s ally in the state, from the Cabinet on Monday. The development comes a day after polling ended in eastern UP, where Rajbhar is seen as having considerable sway among voters of his non-Yadav OBC community.
Rajbhar was state Minister for Backward Classes Welfare and had been criticising the BJP and the Adityanath government for months. On Saturday, a day before the last-phase polling, he had even asked his party workers to beat up BJP workers “with shoes” if they dared spread “misinformation”.
The government also sacked seven other SBSP leaders who had been appointed on various boards and commissions under the state government just before the elections were notified. The appointments — including that of the SBSP chief’s son Arvind Rajbhar, appointed chairman of UP Small and Medium Industries Development Board — were seen as a move by the BJP to woo O P Rajbhar, who claims to have a say among non-Yadav OBC voters in several Lok Sabha seats in eastern UP.
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Rajbhar “welcomed the move” but warned: “Om Prakash chup nahi baithega (will not sit quietly)”. He said Adityanath should implement recommendation of the Samajik Nyay Samiti with the “same speed as he took the decision” on axing him.
He also took on the BJP for not giving his party a single seat to contest on in the General Election. PTI quoted him saying, “I was only demanding one seat …If we do not contest, then what message will we give to our workers and people?”
Significance of OP Rajbhar, his party
Om Prakash Rajbhar, a former BSP leader who formed SBSP in 2002, won only four seats in the 2017 UP Assembly polls but his importance for BJP lies in his claim to being leader of Rajbhars, a non-Yadav OBC community constituting nearly 4.5 per cent of the state’s population. Rajbhar claims to have a considerable say among the community in nearly 60 Assembly seats in this region. It was primarily for this reason that despite warnings and threats to the Yogi Adityanath government, the BJP did not take any action against Rajbhar before Sunday.
BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey said the party respects all alliance partners but blamed Rajbhar for violating the “gathbandhan dharma”, or principles of the alliance. He said: “Despite being in an alliance, Rajbhar always made objectionable statements against the BJP and the state government…We still tried to show patience. But he crossed the line by abusing our workers at a public meeting (on Saturday), forcing the party to take this decision.”
Arun Rajbhar, general secretary of SBSP and younger son of the party chief, told The Indian Express, “BJP ahankar mein pagal ho gayi hai. Unko lagta hai ki woh 50 saal tak UP mein satta mein rahenge (BJP has gone mad with arrogance. It thinks it will rule UP for the next 50 years).”
Stating that the party’s target next is to remove the Chief Minister, Arun said, “Appointing our partymen before the polls was a ‘jhunjhuna’ (toy), and it does not matter the appointments were taken back. All the members had already offered their resignation before the election.”