New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finds itself up against another resentful ally, with a key regional party raising the banner of revolt in the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh weeks ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Uttar Pradesh minister Om Prakash Rajbhar, chief of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), met BJP president Amit Shah late Tuesday to “complain” about Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s style of functioning, party leaders privy to the deliberations told ThePrint.
According to the leaders, in the hour-long meeting that began around midnight, Rajbhar accused Adityanath of ignoring allies in administrative matters. In light of the meeting, a BJP source said, Shah will call Adityanath to Delhi soon to discuss the matter.
With the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) alliance posing a big threat to the saffron party’s dominance in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is anxious to keep its flock together.
The state sends more MPs to the Lok Sabha than any other — 80 — and is central to every party’s poll calculations.
The BJP has emerged as the dominant political player of the state since 2014, when the party won 71 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly election, the party won 312 of the state’s 403 seats.
The SBSP is not a prominent political force yet and won four seats in 2017. However, while its core target base, the Rajbhar community, constitutes only 3 per cent of the state’s population, it is estimated to have considerable influence in around 15 Lok Sabha seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the BJP leaders said.
Rajbhar’s meeting with Shah comes amid a whirlwind week that has seen the latter seal alliances with regional parties in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
His other demands included that three members of the SBSP be drafted into civic agencies, greater participation in the state government, and action on the proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs in keeping with the social justice committee report.
An uneasy relationship
The BJP and the SBSP’s relationship has been uneasy since the time they came together in 2017.
Rajbhar has been a vocal critic of the Yogi Adityanath government. Among other things, he has dismissed as “drama” the chief minister’s name-changing drive for cities with “Mughal names” and lashed out at RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for raking up the Ram temple issue ahead of polls.
Of late, the SBSP has also been making noises about being ready to quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The SBSP had threatened to quit the alliance on 24 February if the social justice committee’s report was not implemented.
The BJP, which was only recently dumped by former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, was keen to stall the SBSP’s exit, which is why Shah met Rajbhar.
According to a source close to Rajbhar, at the meeting, Shah and Rajbhar expressed agreement that the breaking of alliance would harm both parties.
“There was a consensus that electoral prospects of both parties will get affected if the alliance breaks,” said the source. “Shah heard him patiently and assured Rajbhar that his demands will be looked into.”
Rajbhar will meet Shah again on 25 February.
“They have promised that Shah will have a talk with Yogi about us,” added a senior leader of SBSP.