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True essence of ‘Mahagathbandhan’, says SP, as BSP sees exodus of leaders before UP polls

Over 50 per cent of BSP MLAs and 25 per cent of its zonal coordinators have crossed over, says SP. Out of its 18 MLAs, BSP might be left with just three.

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Lucknow: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati expelled party MLA Vinay Shankar Tiwari, son of an influential leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Hari Shankar Tiwari, on the grounds of indiscipline on 7 December. The move by the BSP comes a few days after rumours spread about Hari Shankar Tiwari’s family switching over to the Samajwadi Party (SP).

With Tiwari’s expulsion, 15 out of 18 BSP MLAs have now parted ways, or in the process of doing so, with the party. Thus, the BSP might be left with only three MLAs in the legislative assembly.

In the 2017 UP assembly polls the BSP won 19 seats. Later, its MLA from Jalalpur seat of Ambedkar Nagar district, Ritesh Pandey, won in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the bypolls, BSP lost the Jalalpur seat to the SP, and its numbers reduced to 18 in the assembly.


Also read: Is the game over for BSP? Mayawati’s politics pales in the face of Kanshiram’s legacy


 

Getting ‘true essence of Mahagathbandhan’: SP

Samajwadi Party leaders think that though their alliance with the BSP failed in 2019, they are reaping its benefit now, as several key BSP leaders and their followers have cast their lot with the SP in a continuous stream.

“If you remember that joint press conference of our party president Akhilesh Yadav with BSP president Mayawati… Akhilesh ji told her, ‘we will fight for social justice together’, but the BSP itself quit the alliance soon after the election. Samajwadi Party is still following that path, but the BSP deviated from it. So naturally, BSP leaders found SP a better option. I would say that now we are getting the true essence of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Dr. Ashutosh Verma told ThePrint.

“Our party formed Baba Sahab Vahini, a wing to reach out to Dalits. Apart from MLAs, several BSP zonal coordinators and former MPs and MLAs have joined SP in the last one year because Samajwadi Party is the only party which provides an alternative to the BJP in UP,” he added.

Former BSP MPs, MLAs join SP

Not only their sitting MLAs, several former MPs and MLAs of the BSP have also joined the SP in the past few years. 

They include former MPs Tribhuvan Dutt and Kadir Rana, former ministers Ram Prasad Choudhary and Raghunath Prasad Sankhwar and former MLA Babbu Khan. 

The party’s senior leader C.L. Verma, who was once considered close to Mayawati, also joined the SP in January 2020.

One SP functionary claims that over 50 per cent of BSP MLAs and 25 per cent of its zonal coordinators and district presidents have switched loyalties within the past one-and-a-half years. 

He also claims that it would not be a surprise if, in the upcoming assembly elections, half of the BSP supporters vote for the SP.


Also read: Calling BSP ‘BJP’s B-team’ shows caste bias. Here are four reasons


 

Reasons for switching sides

Most BSP MLAs who have switched sides in recent years are terming the 2022 UP assembly polls a ‘bipolar’, straight fight between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP, and feel the BSP has little chance of making a mark. 

They also accuse BSP functionaries of demanding unreasonable amounts of money as donations for the party fund.

Talking to ThePrint, Hakim Lal Bind, BSP MLA from Prayagraj’s Hakim Lal Bind, who joined the SP in October, said the major reason behind joining SP is that the BSP has forgotten the ideals of the ‘Bahujan movement’. 

“We MLAs were asked to make unreasonable donations by BSP zonal coordinators, who also hold important posts in the party. We don’t have so much money to give. Why would they ask for donations again and again for no reason?” said Bind.

“Another reason for joining the Samajwadi Party is that my ideology matches with the SP rather than the BJP.  I fight for the poor and the lower middle class. For my supporters, the BJP is a party for the business class and corporate people…so I find SP as a better option. SP has given me a space to work and the respect I deserve,” he added.

Hargovind Bhargava, another BSP MLA from Sitapur’s Sidhauli who also joined the SP along with Bind in October, said he was once part of the Bahujan Movement. 

“I joined the BSP in 1998. Now it has forgotten its path. Our aim is to defeat the BJP, but BSP itself has become the BJP’s B-Team. I can’t work in such an atmosphere. Our politics is anti-BJP and the Samajwadi Party seems to be the only option which can defeat the BJP. I find this party more suitable for my future, so I joined it,” said Bhargava.

One former BSP MLA who is planning to join the SP soon said, “This election is going to be bipolar and it is clearly a SP vs BJP fight. The BSP is nowhere in the fight for 2022, except in a few seats. Moreover, it could ‘cut votes’, but not be the main player.”

“The party’s current MLAs understand this and that’s why they have started looking for other options. On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav has given them full respect. I heard many of them are promised tickets in the assembly polls,” he added.

Reaction from the BSP

Senior BSP leaders, however, said those who have left the party have mostly been expelled in recent years.

BSP national general secretary Satish Mishra earlier told ThePrint, “For us, the party is superior. Yahan koi vyakti bada nahi, party badi hai (no individual is big, only the party is big). Those who are leaving have actually been expelled due to anti-party activities.”

Another BSP functionary said, “MLAs who have left the party won the last election only due to the party symbol. Technically, they are still BSP MLAs. They are not yet disqualified from their legislative assembly membership. They are expelled from the party.” 

“In the coming elections, if they contest on another symbol neither our cadres nor the SP cadres would support them, because if they get a ticket, it would be at the cost of a SP leader. If that happens, SP supporters won’t support the outsiders,” he added.

‘BSP leaders joining BJP too’

The BJP does agree with the SP on the point that the BSP has lost relevance in Uttar Pradesh. 

Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, “BSP has lost its relevance because it has focused on caste politics.” 

However, he denies that BSP rebels only prefer SP, pointing out that  Swami Prasad Maurya, Brajesh Pathak and other senior BSP leaders switched from BSP to BJP before the 2017 polls. Many more, he claims, joined the party after the polls.

“BSP is not a leader-based party, but a party dependent on ‘base vote’. Mayawati, like Kanshiram before her, keeps on saying, ‘Leader aate jaate rehte hain hamey koi fark nahi padta…Janata hamare sath hai (Leaders come and go, it doesn’t make a difference to us…the people are with us)’. But I feel that if its base vote sticks with it,  especially the Jatavs, they might still win some seats,” said UP-based political analyst Prof. Badri Narayan. 

“Furthermore, I think why most BSP rebels join SP is, firstly, a certain ‘like-mindedness’ they find in the SP. Secondly, the SP has more space than the BJP to offer to outsiders,” Narayan adds. 

A stream of exits from BSP 

Out of the 18 BSP MLAs, eight have joined the Samajwadi Party in the last one year. Aslam Choudahry, Hargovind Bhargava, Mohammad Mujtaba Siddqui, Hakim Lal Bind, Lalji Verma, Ram Achal Rajbhar, Mohammad Aslam and Sushma Patel are among those who have joined the Samajwadi Party officially. On Sunday, one more MLA, Vinay Shanker Tiwari, also joined the SP, with BSP sources saying that another MLA, Shah Alam, is likely to follow suit.

Verma and Rajbhar were expelled in June 2021 for ‘anti-party activities’.

On the other hand, Bandana Singh, BSP MLA from Sagri seat of Azamgarh district, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last month. The BSP MLA from Sadabad seat of Hathras district, Ramveer Upadhyay, and the party’s MLA From Unnao district’s Purwa seat, Anil Singh, are also likely to join BJP soon, said the sources. 

The BSP’s MLA from Didarganj (Azamgarh) Sukhdev Rajbhar passed away last month. And Mayawati decided in September to deny its MLA from Mau, jailed gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, a ticket in the assembly polls. 

The BSP has recently made Uma Shankar Singh, MLA from Rasala (Ballia) seat their party leader in the legislative assembly.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)


Also read: Mayawati accuses SP, BJP of taking credit for work conceptualised by previous BSP govts


 

 

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