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UP polls: Fight for OBC, Dalit votes gains further momentum as Swami Prasad Maurya, Dharam Singh Saini join Samajwadi Party

Vibha Sharma
New Delhi, January 14

The fight for non-Yadav OBC/Dalit vote blocs in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh gained further momentum with the Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav on Friday welcoming two former ministers in the Adityanath Cabinet—Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini–in the party fold at an event that came under widespread criticism for “violation of ECI guidelines”.

Though after a huge crowd turned up at the SP office in Lucknow to attend the “virtual rally”, leaders denied any violation of Covid norms, stating that no permission was required to have a programme inside the party office.

Adityanath, meanwhile, had a meal at a Dalit household and accused the SP of indulging in “social exploitation” while his former colleagues, including sitting BJP MLAs like Vinay Shakya, Bhagwati Sagar, Roshan Lal Verma, Brajesh Kumar Prajapati and Mukesh Verma, joined the SP to help it shed the image of an exclusive Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) party and add non-Yadav OBCs to its account.

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Taking a dig at the recent resignations from the BJP, Yadav said: “wickets gir rahe the (wickets were dropping)”.

Apna Dal MLA Chaudhary Amar Singh and some other former MLAs from other parties also joined the SP at the event.

Maurya, whose exit triggered an exodus, vowed to ‘finish’ the BJP in the upcoming polls. Challenging Adityanath’s controversial assertion that the UP polls were an “80 per cent vs 20 percent” fight, Maurya claimed the contest was in fact “85 per cent vs 15 per cent”, 85 per cent being OBCs, Dalits, Muslims etc.

While BJP leaders term the party hopping a normal activity during the election time, the developments have put a question mark on leadership’s strategy to rely on imports to win elections.

Similar exits have also been seen in states like West Bengal.

Observers say most of those who quit the BJP in UP this week came from other parties with no RSS or BJP background.

“They came into the BJP looking at greener pastures and left when the situation became tough. They saw a better deal and deserted. If anyone leaves after serving as ministers, everyone knows it is political opportunism,” they say.

However, a section also added that “several loyal and dedicated BJP leaders were ignored to give tickets to these turncoats. The developments put a big question mark on the BJP’s strategy”.

Notably, many of those who quit Mamata Banerjee-led TMC in West Bengal to join the BJP ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections returned after its defeat, the prominent being Mukul Roy.

Meanwhile, Adityanath’s outreach came at a time when some OBC leaders have quit BJP accusing it of being anti-Dalit/anti-OBC and joined the SP.

Adityanath said during the SP rule it was “social exploitation” and not “social justice”, whereas the BJP government is working for the development of every section of society without any discrimination.

“Only 18,000 houses were given to people under PM Awas Yojna in full five-year term of the Akhilesh Yadav government in UP, whereas the present BJP government has given 45 lakh houses to the poor and the deprived under the scheme,” he said.

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