Lucknow: A “Mumbai-returned man” who wants to change the political scenario of eastern Uttar Pradesh, a party that claims to be the voice of the “shoshit (exploited)”, and another that contested three seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but lost deposits in all.
They represent different caste groups across Uttar Pradesh, and have come together to join hands with the state’s ruling BJP ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.
Since its former ally O.P. Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) announced his alliance with the Samajwadi Party last month, the BJP has shifted its focus to smaller parties in the state.
In October, the BJP finalised its alliance with seven smaller parties with a caste appeal among different groups.
These parties are part of the Hissedari Morcha, a coalition of smaller parties that came together this year with an aim to give their communities a bigger voice, with representation from various OBC groups, including Bind, Gadariya, Kumhaar, Dhivar, Kashyap and Rajbhar. Some of them were earlier with Rajbhar’s Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, an alliance formed for the 2022 elections that also includes the AIMIM, but have since parted ways.
Hissedari Morcha convenor Kewat Ramdhani Bind told ThePrint that they are “expecting at least 15 seats from the BJP in the UP polls”.
“We have the support of different castes. We noticed that the BJP is focusing on non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits so we decided to approach them for an alliance,” he said. “We are thankful to the BJP leadership for giving our morcha a big platform.”
The seven parties are the Bharatiya Manav Samaj Party, Shoshit Samaj Party, Bharatiya Suheldev Janata Party, Bharatiya Samata Samaj Party, Manavhit Party, Prithviraj Janshakti Party, and Musahar Andolan Manch aka Gareeb Party.
Bhartiya Manav Samaj Party
Chief: Kewat Ramdhani Bind
The Binds, an OBC group counted among the Nishads, are the party’s prime focus. “Binds have a 6 per cent population in eastern UP, especially in 10 districts, including Prayagraj, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Sonbhadra, and Ghazipur. They can swing elections on the assembly seats in these districts,” said Kewat.
The 41-year-old describes himself as a “Bombay-returned man who wants to change the political scenario in east UP”.
Kewat, who was with the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha earlier, formed the Hissedari Morcha this year.
A party functionary said “Binds were traditional voters of the BSP and the SP in UP earlier”.
“The BSP especially had a bigger connect among the Binds earlier but after the BJP’s alliance with the Nishad Party (their pact for 2022 was sealed this September), it has emerged as another alternative for them.”
Shoshit Samaj Party
Chief: Babu Lal Rajbhar
The party says raising the voice of weaker sections, especially Rajbhars, is its priority. However, Babu Lal said his party is not only a Rajbhar vehicle and seeks to represent all castes.
According to him, he was earlier very impressed with O.P. Rajbhar “but later found him to be a dynasty supporter”. So, he founded his own party in the same belt.
Babu Lal said the Rajbhars account for between 14 per cent and 22 per cent of the population in east UP. “They have seen how O.P. Rajbhar works only for his family, not for the community, so this time the community supports my party.”
Bharatiya Suheldev Janata Party
Chief: Bhim Rajbhar
The party focuses on the Rajbhar community near Ballia district. Rajbhar was also a member of O.P. Rajbhar’s SBSP earlier. He is a fellow founding member of the Hissedari Morcha.
Bharatiya Samata Samaj Party
Chief: Mahendra Prajapati
The OBC Prajapatis are its primary focus area, and the party aims to work for financial stability of community members. Mahendra Prajapati says the community accounts for over 5 per cent of the state’s population.
A party functionary said the Prajapatis are mainly Kumhars, or those engaged in pottery. They have traditionally been SP supporters but a large section moved to the BJP after the party’s massive outreach to non-Yadav OBCs in 2017, the functionary added.
The Yogi Adityanath government’s initiative to constitute a ‘Mati Kala Board’ a few months ago, meant to provide training and support to the state’s clay artisans, also worked in the BJP’s favour.
The party contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in three constituencies but lost its deposit in all seats.
Chief: Krishna Gopal Singh Kashyap
The party caters to the Kashyap community, a sub-caste under the Nishads. Kashyap was with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) between 1998 and 2014.
“We fought the 2017 elections. Our vote percentage was below 1 per cent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, we supported the Congress because they promised us an alliance in the 2022 polls but they did not respond after that, so we decided to join the Hissedari Morcha,” said Kashyap.
He said the Kashyaps account for over 3 per cent of UP’s population.
Prithviraj Janshakti Party
Chief: Chandan Singh Chauhan
Its priority groups include the Nonia, an OBC caste mainly found in east UP. A party functionary said the Nonias constitute over 3 per cent of the population in eastern UP districts, including Varanasi, Chandauli & Mirzapur. This party has its base in Varanasi.
Musahar Andolan Manch (Gareeb Party)
Chief: Chandrama Vanvasi
The group applied for registration as a party under the name ‘Gareeb Party’. Active in Ghazipur district, it focuses on Dalits, especially Musahars.
A party member said the word Musahar translates to “rat-eater”, and they are known thus because of the community’s erstwhile primary occupation of catching rats. Many in the community, also known as the Banbasi, are are still forced to do this work due to destitution and poverty, the member added. They constitute around 1 per cent of the population in easternmost Uttar Pradesh.
UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said all “seven smaller parties have their own significance in several districts”.
“They have the support of weaker sections. The BJP has given them a big platform, they are impressed with the BJP’s policies under the leadership of PM Modi and CM Yogi so they approached us for the alliance.”
A senior UP BJP functionary who didn’t wish to be named said these “7 smaller parties represent several castes, especially among the OBCs and the STs”.
“They impact over 25 per cent of the population in east UP, especially the weaker sections. They will help increase our reach, especially in districts like Ghazipur, Ballia, Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Varanasi. There are more than 50 Vidhan Sabha seats in this belt (out of the assembly’s total 403),” said the functionary. “The SP and O.P. Rajbhar also have their reach here so to counter them these small parties will play a significant role.”
The seven parties under the Hissedar Morcha will get traction after their alliance with the BJP, and they will help us in the coming elections, the leader said.
“No one knew about O.P. Rajbhar, Sanjay Nishad and Anupriya Patel’s parties before 2014, when they formed an alliance with us. Their value increased just because they made an alliance with us.”
Dr Shilp Shikha Singh, an assistant professor at Lucknow’s Giri Institute of Development Studies, said the “new parties and their leaders are too new and small to mobilise communities at large”.
“These efforts of the BJP are in line with its strategy of creating alternative leadership among the politically conscious non-dominant backward groups but there is a definite limitation of such efforts as these leaders are not organic leaders,” Singh added. “They are developing under the BJP’s hegemonic umbrella. How effective they would be in taming organic leaders like Om Prakash Rajbhar etc… this remains quite doubtful.”
“Their maximum strength as of now may be district-level partial mobilisation of their own community’s sympathiser,” she said.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)