Lucknow: Three days after pledging support to the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance, the Nishad Party — which had scripted the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf during the Gorakhpur bypolls — broke away from the gathbandhan in the state and is likely to join the BJP.
Upset over lack of announcements about seat-sharing and absence of the party’s name in the alliance publicity material, Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad met Adityanath Friday evening.
On Saturday, the SP fielded two candidates from the Nishad community – former BJP leader Rambhual Nishad from Gorakhpur and Ram Kumar Nishad from Kanpur.
Referring to the SP-BSP top leadership, Sanjay Nishad told ThePrint, “They had been forcing us to contest elections on their party symbol. We have around 2.5 crore voters across 25 Lok Sabha seats in Purvanchal and nearly 18 per cent of the population comprises Nishad communities.”
“So, how can we contest elections on another party’s symbol? Our workers decided to break away from the alliance,” said Nishad.
On the likelihood of his party forging an alliance with the BJP, he said, “Talks with the BJP are underway. They are now working on a measure to grant SC (Scheduled Caste) status to various Nishad sub-communities.”
“They did not do so since we were in opposition here. We have told them that once there is substantial progress on granting SC reservation to us, we will ally with them,” added Nishad.
However, earlier on Tuesday, Nishad was singing a different tune.
During a press conference with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav at his party office in Lucknow, the Nishad Party chief had said, “To re-create the history in 2019 that we created in Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Kairana-Noorpur, this alliance is taking place.”
Referring to the BJP, he had said, “It is our duty to stop such a government by pressing the button and stopping them from entering the parliament.”
Rise of Nishad Party
Formed in 2013 by Sanjay Nishad, the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (Nishad) party is believed to have support among other backward class (OBC) communities of boatmen and fishermen along the riverine belt in Purvanchal constituencies of Uttar Pradesh.
While the community comes under the OBC category in the state, they have been given the SC status in other states.
It was an agitation demanding SC status to Nishad sub-communities in 2015 that had propelled homeopathic clinic owner Sanjay Nishad into the limelight.
The movement had resulted in the SP government passing an ordinance to bring the community under the SC fold. The Allahabad High Court, however, put a stay on the government order.
The Gorakhpur victory
In the 2018 bypolls, Sanjay’s son Praveen Nishad contested the Gorakhpur seat on an SP ticket. With a margin of over 20,000 votes, Praveen defeated the BJP on a seat that Adityanath had won for five consecutive terms.
While clear estimates of the Nishad community voters in the region are unavailable, the party has claimed that around 18 per cent of the state’s population belongs to this group.
After the joint press conference Tuesday, there were speculations about Praveen Nishad being fielded again from Gorakhpur and the Maharajganj seat to be allotted to a Nishad Party leader.
While Sanjay Nishad had announced that he would leave the seat-sharing decision and the party’s role in the alliance to Yadav, there was allegedly no movement on this regard.
With its drubbing at the hands of this party, the BJP has tried to garner votes from the group in various ways following the bypolls.
Last year, the BJP-led government in UP announced that along with building a Ram statue near Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, it would construct another statue next to it — that of Nishadraj, a boatman and a Nishad community icon who is believed to have helped Lord Ram cross the Ganga river.
The cost of the project has been estimated at Rs 34 crore.
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