Rajat Sharma

Why MLAs and ministers in UP are changing their parties

akb fullThe political cauldron in Uttar Pradesh is now on a boil with politicians changing affiliations and loyalties as the dates for filing of nominations come closer. BJP has scrutinized the names of candidates for more than 300 assembly seats in UP, out of which the names of at least 175 have been almost finalized. All that remains is for the BJP central election committee to put its seal of approval, and the first list of candidates will be released.

Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav is also expected to release the list of his party candidates for places where polling will take place in the first two phases. Last minute jockeying for tickets has begun in both these main parties, and, as is the norm, politicians are fast changing colours and loyalties.

On Wednesday, another BJP minister in UP, Dara Singh Chauhan resigned from the cabinet hours after he met Akhilesh Yadav. He was preceded on Tuesday by another minister Swami Prasad Maurya. Samajwadi party leaders claim that this is just the beginning and after Makar Sankranti on Friday, the deluge will begin. They claim that nearly 18 BJP ministers and MLAs are going to quit. On Wednesday, a news was circulated about a BJP MLA Ravindra Nath Tripathi resigning, but later the letter proved to be forged, and an FIR was filed by the legislator.

UP Forest Minister Dara Singh Chauhan’s resignation was expected. BJP leaders tried to persuade him to stay, but he sent in his resignation letter after meeting the SP supremo.

With two backward class leaders like Chauhan and Swami Prasad Maurya quitting, the SP camp now appears to be enthusiastic, but the interesting thing was that both the resignation letters were drafted on similar lines. Both the ministers alleged that Dalits, backward classes and other sections have been ignored during BJP rule. Asked why he stayed in government for five years, if Dalits and backward classes were being ignored, Chauhan said, he knew this question would arise. “Only a few leaders and bureaucrats cornered benefits, while we, as ministers, were ignored”, he replied.

Chauhan told a lie when he said he has not decided which party he would join. The moment his resignation was flashed, Akhilesh Yadav posted an image of him meeting Chauhan on social media. Chauhan belongs to Nonia backward caste. He started his political career in BSP, was made MLC and later MP, after which he joined SP and was elected from Ghosi, but he lost the 2014 elections, and joined BJP. He was head of BJP’s state backward classes morcha. One should admire his patience. For five years, according to him, he raised the issues of Dalits and backward classes, but waited till the election code came into force, and then resigned.

The other minister Swami Prasad Maurya said, he would announce his joining Samajwadi Party on Friday, along with his followers. He alleged that BJP government was going to do away with reservation quota for backward classes. The surprising part is that both these ministers used to attend every cabinet meeting, but were watching everything silently. Another backward class leader Om Prakash Rajbhar, chief of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, claimed that there are nearly 18 ministers and leaders in BJP who are waiting to quit and join SP, by January 20.

At least Rajbhar is honest. He was a minister in CM Yogi’s government in 2017, but left the government and alliance after two years alleging that the BJP was not fulfilling its promises made to him. When Rajbhar claimed that the resignation letters of more leaders are ready, it was found that the resignation letters of both Maurya and Chauhan were identically drafted. Even the fake resignation letter of BJP MLA Ravindranath Tripathi was also found to be drafted in similar language. Tripathi alleged that his official letterpad was deliberately used to circulate this fake letter. He filed an FIR with local police. ‘’ Tripathi claimed that he had met Swami Prasad Maurya briefly for only two minutes in Vidhan Sabha.

Another photograph of UP minister Dr G S Dharmesh with Akhilesh Yadav was made viral on social media. Dr Dharmesh had to clarify that this was a photoshopped image. “I am a soldier of BJP and shall continue to remain so”, Dharmesh said.

The crossing of floors is also taking place from the other end too. A Congress MLA Naresh Saini and an SP MLA Hari Om Yadav, along with a former MLA Dharampal, joined BJP on Wednesday in the presence of top state party leaders. Hari Om Yadav is a relative of SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav. He is a ‘nana’ (grandfather) of Tej Pratap Yadav. While joining BJP, he claimed that SP would lose all the seats from Firozabad district. The Congress MLA Naresh Saini alleged that Congress leaders do not have any contacts with grassroots workers and they are only visible on Twitter.

One must understand the reasons behind these resignations. During 2017 assembly polls, BJP had accommodated as many as 100 local level leaders, who commanded good following among backward classes and Dalits. Most of them had left BSP and SP to join BJP at that time. By allying with these leaders and small parties, BJP managed to score three-fourth majority in the assembly elections. Now, BJP has become a big force in state politics, and it has its base among many backward classes. It does not need many of these small parties and their leaders. The party leadership is confident that the people of UP will vote for Modi and Yogi. That is why, the party leadership is denying tickets to those who are expected to jump ship. These leaders, who have resigned, now realize that the BJP leadership is not going to give them and their relatives any ticket.

On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav is busy trying to accommodate most of the smaller parties and their leaders into his camp. He has promised to give tickets to these leaders and their relatives. Actually, Akhilesh’s problems are simmering. He has set up an alliance with many small caste-based parties.

The number of assembly seats is only 403, and he has to accommodate all of them, apart from protecting his own party base. To keep his own party leaders and workers happy, Akhilesh will have to do a big balancing task. On Wednesday, Akhilesh had a meeting with his allies. These included his own uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav (Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party), Om Prakash Rajbhar (Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party), Keshavdeo Maurya (Mahan Dal), Sanjay Chauhan (Janwadi Party Socialist), Krishna Patel (Apna Dal-K), and Masood Ahmed (RLD). It was later announced that most of the seats have been finalized but the lists of candidates will be released in phases.

BJP is also working overtime to keep its flock together. On Wednesday night, Union Minister and Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel, and Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad along with his son met top BJP leaders Amit Shah and others separately at the BJP headquarters in Delhi, to discuss seat adjustments. Names of at least 175 BJP candidates have already been finalized and will be given approval by the Central Election Committee. There are reports that the central leadership is not in a mood to drop most of its legislators, but on 90 seats, which the party lost last time, the candidates may be changed. Seats of some ministers may also be changed.

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