Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who took over as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the second week of September for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, had devised a strategy to increase the vote bank of the BJP. Pradhan also explored the possibility of alliances with some smaller parties, including Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SubhSP). Once a bureaucrat close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now a BJP member on the UP Legislative Council, Arvind Kumar Sharma acted as a link between Rajbhar and Pradhan. With Sharma’s efforts, talks between Rajbhar and Pradhan about a possible alliance took place on October 16, but Rajbhar was unable to obtain any concrete guarantees from the BJP on the allocation of seats. Four days later, these speculations came to an abrupt end when Rajbhar met with the national chairman of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Akhilesh Yadav, on his Twitter account on October 20 and posted a photo with the slogan ‘Abki Baar, BJP Saaf ‘written on it.
Shortly after this, as soon as the video of Akhilesh Yadav and Rajbhar’s meeting was posted from the SP’s official Twitter user, it became clear that the SP has Subhaspa’s support in the fight for the 2022 assembly elections. On October 27, on the occasion of the 19th founding day of SubhaSP, Akhilesh Yadav sealed SP’s alliance with Rajbhar’s party by showing his presence as the main guest at the rally organized at Dholvan Maidan in the Haldharpur area of the Mau district. Akhilesh Yadav said in his speech: “The red cap of the SP and the yellow cap of the SubhaSP have now become a red-yellow one. If it is ‘played’ in the Bengal elections, then the people of Purvanchal will also show ‘Khadera’ , that is, BJP by removing them from power.
For Akhilesh Yadav, who is trying to return to power in UP, Subhaspa’s support in Purvanchal is very important. Rajbhar or its caste equivalents hold 153 seats in the UP assembly. (See graphs) There are voters of these castes from 20 thousand to 90 thousand in these seats. There are a good number of voters belonging to the Rajbhar society in 24 districts of Purvanchal and Awadh. The SubhaSP had contested the 2017 assembly elections in alliance with the BJP in eight seats. Of these, four were won by Subhasp. After the formation of the BJP government in UP in March 2017, Om Prakash Rajbhar was appointed Minister of the Backward Classes Welfare Department. Since then, he has continually criticized Yogi Adityanath’s government, accusing it of neglecting the backward. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rajbhar broke the alliance with the BJP and ran candidates in 39 seats. Now, for the 2022 assembly elections, the SP and SubhaSP alliance is important in many ways.
Shashikant Pandey, Head of the Department of Political Science at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University and professor, says: “SubhaSP has influence not only in Rajbhar society but also most of the backward castes such as Banshi, Arkavanshi, Bind, Prajapati, Pal, Vishwakarma. If the Muslim-Yadav alliance of SP gains the support of these castes, then surely the alliance SP-SubhaSP will present a very difficult challenge for the BJP in Purvanchal.
Power rally show
The 2019 Lok Sabha election was contested by Subhasp in 39 seats. In all of these seats, Subhaspa’s candidates may have lost their deposits, but Subhaspa’s performance in the Machhlishahr, Ghazipur and Ballia Lok Sabha seats in Purvanchal was staggering. BP from BJP in the seat of Machhlishahr Lok Sabha. Saroj defeated BSP’s Tribhuan Ram by 181 votes in a very close contest. In this seat, the SubhaSP obtained more than 11,000 votes. After this, in the Jalalpur by-elections of the October 2019 assembly, the total of votes obtained by the Subhaspa candidate was much higher than the margin of victory of the winning SP candidate. Shashikant Pandey says: “While contesting the elections alone, the SubhaSP may have obtained fewer votes, but in the close contests between the major parties in the assembly elections, the SubhaSP vote bank can make a difference.” October 27 Rajbhar is preparing for a large SP-SubhaSP alliance rally in Basti on November 14, Kushinagar on November 17 and Hardoi on November 27.
The image of the SP alliance is clearing up
SP National President Akhilesh Yadav constantly talks about forming an alliance with smaller parties rather than large parties in his remarks. After Rajbhar’s alliance with SubhasSP, the image of SP’s alliance with smaller SP parties is becoming clearer. In order to attract non-Yadav CBO castes to the SP, Akhilesh Yadav has devised a strategy to form alliances with smaller parties that have local influence on the particular caste. The SP has announced an alliance with the Mahan Dal Party of Keshav Dev Maurya and the Janata (Socialist) Party of Sanjay Chauhan.
The political base of the Mahan Dal in UP is among the most backward castes such as Shakya, Saini, Kushwaha, Maurya, Kamboj de Bareilly, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Agra, Bijnor and Moradabad districts. Similarly, the political base of Sanjay Chauhan’s People’s Party (Socialist) is in the backward Nonia castes of the districts of Mau, Azamgarh, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Deoria de Purvanchal.
Professor Shashikant Pandey explains: “The way the SP has made an alliance strategy with smaller parties, the fight for the 2022 UP assembly elections is also shrinking between the SP and the BJP alliance. This it is also because small local parties do not favor parties like Congress and the BSP.
BJP’s aggressive response
Om Prakash Rajbhar’s discontent with the BJP started after the Rajya Sabha elections in March 2018. To attract Rajbhar voters from Purvanchal, the BJP had sent Ballia’s leader Sakaldeep Rajbhar to Rajya Sabha. Since then, the distance between the SubhaSP and the BJP had started to increase. The Rajbhar society regards the mythological king Suheldev of the Bahraich district as its ideal. It is said that in the year 1034 he defeated and killed Syed Salar Masood Ghazi, the general of Mahmud Ghaznavi.
The dispute between Om Prakash Rajbhar and the BJP reached its peak when on December 28, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a postage stamp in Suheldev at a rally in Ghazipur. Om Prakash Rajbhar did not like BJP’s attempt to make inroads among Rajbhar voters via Suheldev, so he did not attend Modi’s rally in Ghazipur. That same year, Modi laid the foundation stone for the Suheldev memorial in Bahraich on February 16. Following the Lok Sabha elections on August 21, in the first expansion of the Yogi government cabinet, BJP MLA Anil Rajbhar of Varanasi Shivpur Assembly Headquarters was promoted to the post of Minister of State and appointed Minister of the cabinet.
Two months later, on October 22, an attempt was made to send a positive message to Rajbhar voters in Purvanchal by giving Anil Rajbhar the responsibility of spokesperson for the Yogi government. Since then Anil Rajbhar has been gathering continuously in Rajbhar dominated areas of Purvanchal. After the alliance between SP and SubhaSP, Anil Rajbhar is busy in the preparations to organize the ‘Burdafash Rally’ in Mau. Anil Rajbhar accuses Om Prakash Rajbhar of colluding with the Mafia housed in Banda and Mukhtar Ansari, Mau Sadar prison. Anil Rajbhar says: “Through the broken demonstration, the reality of Om Prakash Rajbhar will be told to Rajbhar society, how with the help of Mukhtar Ansari, a demonstration was held on October 27 in the Hardharpur area of the Mau district under your assembly constituency The crowd coming to the ‘Budfaash Rally’ will make it clear who the Rajbhar voters of Purvanchal are with.
Conversation / Om Prakash Rajbhar
“I couldn’t even transfer my samdhi under Yogi’s rule.”
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party Chairman Om Prakash Rajbhar shared his opinion with India Today associate editor Ashish Mishra after the alliance with the SP. Key parts:
Your first priority for the alliance was BJP, is that why you met senior BJP leaders?
In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP had promised me 22 seats, but only gave me eight. I had accepted this. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he was only asking the BJP for one seat. If they did not give, he left the alliance with the respect of Rajbhar society in mind. I have personal relationships with many BJP leaders, so I keep meeting with them.
What is your dislike of the BJP government? Have you also said that I will not forge an alliance with the BJP under Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath?
The chief minister, Yogi, had announced during the assembly session that his government would implement the report of the ‘Social Justice Committee-2001’ related to the backward caste reservation. Earlier, former BJP National Chairman Amit Shah had also made the same announcement. The Yogi government began to run away from my demand to implement the report. Not only this, as a cabinet minister, I couldn’t even get 200 meters of road built. My friend was the District Inspector of Schools (GOD), I couldn’t even get him transferred. This was my position.
You had no choice but to go to the SP?
BJP was spending 14 years in exile in Uttar Pradesh, when he couldn’t find any partner, then he came to me. BJP took my support and did the job of stabbing Rajbhar society in the back. To teach the BJP a lesson in the 2022 assembly elections, the SubhaSP has made an alliance with the SP.
Did a video go viral in which you appeal not to vote for SP?
My old videos are being published. When I was with BJP, I refused to vote for SP.
Is BJP trying to woo Rajbhar voters through Suheldev?
No one knew Suheldev 19 years ago from today. The BJP met Suheldev when he contacted Om Prakash Rajbhar. Now, whatever work the BJP government is doing to woo Rajbhar society, it is my entire contribution. All great men’s stamps are issued from Delhi, but Suheldev’s postage stamp was issued by Prime Minister Modi of the Om Prakash Rajbhar assembly constituency, Zahoorabad.
After the alliance with SP, does the association that Sankalp Morcha formed under your leadership seem to disintegrate?
Only seven parties participated in the Sankalp Morcha Association. Say any such press conference in which Morcha member and AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi, Chandrashekhar Azad of the Aaj Samaj Party or Pragatisheel Samajwadi (Lohia) Party President Shivpal Singh Yadav have also been involved. The Partnership Front is fully united. It only remains to include the national chairman of the Jan Adhikar Party, Babu Singh Kushwaha. It is my effort that all the parties that want to defeat the BJP come with Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha.
Has Akhilesh Yadav not shown a very positive attitude when taking his uncle Shivpal Yadav?
This is the case with Akhilesh Yadav’s family. I believe that the family should stay together. For my part, I will try to unite Akhilesh and Shivpal.
What has been discussed with the SP about the coordination of seats?
Whether we fight in one seat or ten, we have to remain ministers. I cannot become a CM. There will be an effort to win as many seats as possible in the alliance. When the government is formed, I will expand my party by becoming a minister.