Bharatiya Janata Party’s allies in Uttar Pradesh are getting restive as the Lok Sabha elections are drawing near.
The allies, Apna Dal and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) are aware that the BJP cannot afford to divorce the alliance since both the parties represent different Dalit sub- castes and hold considerable sway over their respective vote banks.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, who heads the SBSP, is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. He has been trying to extract the proverbial pound of flesh from the BJP by issuing threats on a regular basis. Two months ago, he threatened to stage a dharna if the district magistrate of Ghazipur was not transferred. He then issued statements against the BJP for not “accommodating” his party in the municipal elections and alleged that BJP president Amit Shah had been “ignoring” him.
After this, Rajbhar went ahead and fielded his party candidates in several district of eastern Uttar Pradesh and most of them were pitted against the BJP. Last week, a war of words between Rajbhar and another minister in the Yogi Adityanath government took a serious turn. BJP minister Anil Rajbhar, who belongs to the same community, targeted Om Prakash Rajbhar and said, “It is because of the BJP that SBSP was enjoying the perks of power. Had it not been for the BJP, Om Prakash Rajbhar would have remained a nonentity in politics” “He is selling the poor for a price (an obvious reference to allegations of selling tickets in municipal elections). People should make sure that such people are taught a lesson. Waise bhi peela jhanda (flag of SBSP) lekar chalne walon ko kaun pooch raha hai?” Anil Rajbhar asked.
Anil Rajbhar said that Om Prakash Rajbhar was trying to mislead the Rajbhar community and was projecting the community as alcoholics. This was in reference to recent statements made by Om Prakash Rajbhar in which he had justified the distribution of liquor among his voters.
Om Prakash Rajbhar promptly reacted and said that he would field SBSP candidates in Gujarat now.
“Our alliance with BJP is not at the national level. We also want to contest Assembly polls for some seats in Gujarat with BJP. A message was sent to BJP president Amit Shah a fortnight back but we did not get any reply. Our party will contest on 12 seats in Vadodara, Vapi and Surat”, he told reporters. The SBSP has four MLAs in the state Assembly.
Om Prakash Rajbhar threatened that he moved around with his resignation in his pocket. “Those who are levelling allegations against me, they should be ashamed of themselves. I will not bow before such threats and neither will I ever compromise with the interests of the poor and downtrodden”, he said.
He also referred to his counterpart as “monkeys who have danced for Samajwadi leaders”—a reference to the fact that Anil Rajbhar was earlier in the Samajwadi Party. This is the first time in the Yogi Adityanath government that the ministers are openly attacking each other.
The Apna Dal (Anupriya Patel faction), on the other hand, may not be as vocal as Rajbhar but the party displayed its indignation by refusing to contest the municipal elections because the BJP did not share seats.
The Apna Dal has asked its candidates to contest as independents. “If our candidates win seats, then we will talk to the BJP”, said a party leader.