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UP: Change in Equations as OP Rajbhar Seals Alliance Deal With BJP

The nitty-gritty of the pact saw Rajbhar agreeing to contest on seats that the BJP is not currently holding.
Om Prakash Rajbhar

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Lucknow: Four years after it quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) on Sunday stitched a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"Opinion in SBSP is not against going with BJP. In our party's interests, we need to take tough decisions," Arun Rajbhar, SBSP's general secretary, told NewsClick. 

 The nitty-gritty of the pact saw Rajbhar agreeing to contest on seats that the BJP is not currently holding. The decision is bound to cause heartburn among BJP hopefuls, but the party is pleased with the bargain.

 Rajbhar is seen to command the loyalty of the assertive Rajbhar community that can add 3-4% votes to BJP's base, which that includes kumahar, gadariya and kurmi and some Muslims as well.

 The BJP already has a pact with two other OBC (Other Backward Class) parties from east Uttar Pradesh — Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the Nishad Party.

 Political experts and journalists, meanwhile, said it is Union Minister Amit Shah who is pushing efforts to ensure BJP continues to get big numbers by bringing regional parties under the NDA umbrella. 

 Parvez Ahmad, a journalist, told NewsClick, "OP Rajbhar has influence in three-four districts including Bahraich, Ambedkar Nagar, Gonda and Mau because a huge chunk of the Rajbhar community lives in these districts, and apart from giving fiery speeches, Rajbhar is an accessible leader among his community. Therefore, he can mobilise his people. The other aspect that may benefit BJP by bringing SBSP into its fold is that there are 27 backward castes in the state apart from yadavs and kurmis, who are by and large Hindutva supporters at heart. Rajbhar knows this very well. If does not seal an alliance with the saffron party this time, he won't be able to cash these votes."

 On the poll prospects of NDA, Ahmad said, "Rajbhar joining the NDA opened a door for the Ansari (strongman Mukhtar Ansari) family and found a messenger who can communicate with the ruling government, especially Amit Shah. Rajbhar can also create pressure on Shah to slow down ED and income tax raids on the Ansari family and in return may ask them not to contest the election from anywhere."

 Ahmad also felt that BJP would give only the Ghazipur seat to SBSP, from where, probably, Rajbhar’s son would contest, and Senior Rajbhar would be accommodated in the cabinet. 

 Rajbhar was a BJP ally and a minister in the state government but had parted ways ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls, where he was in alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP).

 The Rajbhar community constitutes about 20% of the population in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and is regarded as the second-most politically dominant community after the yadavs.

However, Rajbhar has been one of BJP's most troublesome allies in Uttar Pradesh and has often criticised the state's Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government.

Reacting to the development, Athar Siddiqui from the Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD), told NewsClick: “Home Minister Amit Shah was personally monitoring the plan to get Rajbhar’s party with about 3% OBC vote in east UP on board. This shows the fine planning of BJP and their anxiousness to win the 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP to make up for the possible loss of seats from states such as Karnataka and Bihar."

Sources said Rajbhar reportedly sought to field his party candidates from at least two seats in UP- Ghazipur and Ghosi. Speculations are also rife that he might be accommodated in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet in the coming days.

The SBSP, as part of the BJP-led NDA in 2017, won four Assembly seats. Rajbhar was inducted into the Yogi cabinet. He, however, developed differences with the state government and decided to quit.

 The BJP-SBSP alliance came a day after Samajwadi Party MLA Dara Singh Chauhan quit the membership of the UP Assembly and the Akhilesh Yadav-led outfit and met Amit Shah. Chauhan, also an OBC, is expected to join BJP soon. He, too, has been seeking to contest the next Lok Sabha elections from Ghosi.

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