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UP: SBSP Chief OP Rajbhar Meets Deputy CM Pathak, Fuels Speculation of Tie-up With BJP

Rajbhar, who claims influence in about 32 Lok Sabha seats in Purvanchal, is said to be asking for more seats than BJP is willing to give, say sources.
UP: SBSP Chief OP Rajbhar Meets Deputy CM Pathak, Fuels Speculation of Tie-up With BJP

SBSP Chief Om Prakash Rajbhar. Image Courtesy: PTI

Lucknow: The Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief and former minister Om Prakash Rajbhar, who recently pitched Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati's name as the Opposition’s prime ministerial face, met deputy chief minister Brajesh Pathak at the latter’s Raj Bhavan Colony residence in Lucknow on Tuesday. 

The meeting fuelled fresh speculations about the likelihood of the SBSP re-joining the Bharatiya Janata Party-led-National Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Both Rajbhar and his party general secretary Arun played down the meeting, describing it as a “personal meeting”. But, if indications emanating from BJP and SBSP camps are anything to go by, a tie-up between the two parties is a possibility.

"All aspects regarding the alliance have been discussed. Om Prakash Rajbhar can attend the meeting to be held in Delhi on July 18 with either his son Arvind Rajbhar or Arun Rajbhar. Both the leaders will hold talks with BJP President JP Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah there. The final discussion on the nature of the alliance will take place in this meeting itself. After this, a big rally will be held in Purvanchal and a formal announcement of the alliance will be made," an SBSP leader told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity. 

Daya Shankar Singh, transport minister who also comes from Purvanchal's Ballia district, is said to have been active in attempting a pact between BJP and SBSP. 

Rajbhar claims influence in about 32 Lok Sabha seats in Purvanchal. If SBSP manages to seal an alliance with BJP, the NDA will be able to keep its political base strong in eastern Uttar Pradesh, said political observers.

Sudhir Singh, a journalist in Ballia, told NewsClick, said BJP was likely to accommodate SBSP in a Nishad Party-type of arrangement by offering a Lok Sabha ticket from Ghazipur to Rajbhar’s son and making Om Prakash a cabinet minister in Yogi 2.0 government. But, as per soures, the SBSP chief is pushing BJP for three to four Lok Sabha seats by citing his party’s ability to win the seats in alliance with BJP. However, BJP is said to be willing to leave only a solitary seat for SBSP. 

In the 2022 Assembly elections, Rajbhar's SBSP had contested as an ally of the Samajwadi Party (SP). It won six seats but the alliance fell apart a few months after the results were announced. In the recent past, Rajbhar has been once again showing his inclination to lean toward BJP.

Read Also: UP: Will Akhilesh Yadav's Call for Electoral Alliances Benefit SP, pin Down BJP?

SBSP was a BJP ally in the 2017 elections and had won four of the eight seats it had contested. Rajbhar was made a minister in the Adityanath government but he resigned in May 2019.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the SP formed an alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok DaL, known as the ‘Mahagathbandhan,’ or ‘grand alliance’. However, this coalition proved more beneficial to BSP, which secured 10 seats, while SP won just five seats.

In the UP Assembly elections in 2022, SBSP entered the fray in alliance with SP and fielded its candidates on 18 seats. However, this time they could win only six seats.

Rajbhar describes himself as the leader of the most backward class in the state, which includes 17 castes like kahar, kashyap, kevat, mallah, nishad, kumhar, prajapati, dhivar, bhind, rajbhar, dhimar and batham. These castes have influence on many seats and decide the equation of victory and defeat. They have influence in at least 16 districts including Ballia, Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Azamgarh and Salempur. 

It must be noted around 52% of the population in UP belongs to the other backward class i.e OBC category. In this, except yadavs, 43% of the population comes in the most backward class. There are 79 castes in the ambit of OBC in UP, in which yadavs have the largest population, followed by kurmis.

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