Joining hands with smaller parties with a political base in different castes was a part of the BJP strategy as it won big in Uttar Pradesh in the 2017 assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The saffron party is again working to stitch up a strong social alliance as it prepares for the state elections slated for early next year. With senior party leader and Union minister Amit Shah reaching out to the leaders of Apna Dal (S) and Nishad Party, both BJP allies but disaffected over the issue of their representation in the government, and Congress leader Jitin Prasada joining the saffron party, the ruling party seems to be taking measures to get its arithmetic right.
Prasada hails from a noted Brahmin family of the state that had remained in the Congress for three generations, and the BJP believes that the young leader’s defection to its ranks will help it contain any dissatisfaction a section of the politically influential community might have with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led government. While Anupriya Dal of Apna Dal has not spoken on her meeting with Shah, Sanjay Nishad of Nishad Party made it clear that his party wants representation in the state government to fulfil the aspirations of the marginalised communities it draws its support from.
Political power is stronger than God’s power, he told PTI to emphasise its importance to address myriad issues facing different deprived communities. He also reiterated his demand for giving the community of boatmen, who come under various castes and subcastes, benefits under the scheduled castes and not under the category of Other Backward Communities as being given currently in UP.
In a message to the BJP, he said the community has in the past supported parties like the BSP, SP and the Congress but stopped voting for them after they did not address their concerns. “We understand the Modi government has been busy with important national issues,” he said, referring to Article 370 revocation. “Now we believe our concerns will be addressed,” he said.
His son Praveen Kumar Nishad’s victory as Samajwadi Party candidate from Adityanath’s pocket borough of Gorakhpur had shocked the BJP, which then worked to woo him over to its camp during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Patel was a minister in the first Modi government but her party’s reported talks with the Congress during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections even as it finally fought as a BJP ally resulted in the Kurmi leader being kept out of its second innings.
There have been reports that the BJP may also bring its former ally Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party to its fold again but its leader Om Prakash Rajbhar has ruled out such a possibility.
BJP sources said their party has always worked to give due representation to various communities and noted that it has never been averse to tying up with smaller parties. “We have done it in various states, be it Bihar, Assam or Uttar Pradesh,” a leader said.
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has also been working to broaden his party’s social appeal by bringing leaders from outside its core constituency.
With the Yogi government’s handling of the recent COVID-19 crisis drawing questions from even state BJP leaders, with several of them writing letters to highlight their concerns, the saffron party leadership has been taking measures to address organisational and governance challenges.
There has been strong speculation that Adityanath may go for an expansion of his Cabinet, and Shah’s meetings with allies are being seen as part of the exercise.
The BJP has a lot at stake in the next round of assembly elections in five states early next year as it is in power in four of them, including Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur besides the all-important Uttar Pradesh.
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