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The Hindu
The Hindu
Mayank Kumar

Om Prakash Rajbhar-led SBSP joins NDA

After weeks of speculation the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), led by Om Prakash Rajbhar, on Sunday joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and will fight the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the alliance. The formal declaration of joining was done after the SBSP chief met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi.

“Met Shri Om Prakash Rajbhar ji in Delhi and he decided to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji. I welcome him to the NDA family. The arrival of Rajbhar ji will strengthen the NDA in Uttar Pradesh and the efforts being made by the NDA under the leadership of Modi ji for the welfare of the poor and downtrodden will get further strength,” said Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Twitter announcing the decision.

Mr. Rajbhar too said that both parties will together fight for social justice. “The Bharatiya Janata Party and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) have come together. Together, we will fight for social justice, the country’s security and protection, good governance, and to strengthen the deprived, Backward Classes, Dalits, women, farmers, youth, and every marginalised section of the society,” he tweeted.

Formed in 2002, the SBSP enjoys sizeable support from the Rajbhar community in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The party was in an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2022 U.P. Assembly polls, and fought on 19 seats, winning six, but later broke away from the SP during the Presidential election.

Earlier, the SBSP had contested the 2017 Assembly polls in an alliance with the BJP under the NDA and won four seats. Mr. Rajbhar was appointed Minister of the Backward Class Welfare Department in the first Yogi Adityanath-led Cabinet. However, he resigned soon after, following a tussle with the saffron party.

The SBSP calls for the inclusion of the Rajbhar community, constituting roughly 4% of Uttar Pradesh’s electorate, in the list of Scheduled Castes (SC).

Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders welcomed the latest move. “We welcome the joining of the SBSP in the NDA. It will further strengthen the developmental vision and ideas of our leader Narendra Modi-ji among the Backward Classes in the State,” U.P. Minister Danish Azad Ansari said, speaking with The Hindu.

“It is not the matter of [the number of] Lok Sabha seats, but the idea is to effectively penetrate the development vision of our leader,” Mr. Ansari added, when asked in how many Lok Sabha seats the SBSP may be of help to the BJP.

The SP, a former ally of the SBSP, reacted sharply to Mr. Rajbhar’s move to the NDA, describing it as a betrayal of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and marginalised sections. “The SBSP chief himself used to say in rallies that the BJP is the biggest enemy of OBCs and is anti-reservation, vowing to never join hands with the saffron party, but suddenly took the decision. The OBCs and other marginalised communities are witness to the betrayal, and rest assured it will have no impact on the SP as our social alliance of PDA (Pichre or Backward Classes, Dalits, and Alpashankhak or minorities) is intact and will be more alert from the BJP’s divisive tactics,” the SP’s national spokesperson Sunil Singh Yadav said. 

The BJP’s strategy of allying with the SBSP is also the result of its inability to perform well in the districts of Ghazipur, Mau and Azamgarh in eastern U.P., where the SBSP has a presence. The SP-SBSP alliance damaged the BJP’s prospects in at least 20 Assembly seats in these districts in the 2022 elections, with the BJP failing to win a single seat out of the seven Assembly seats in Ghazipur, and 10 seats of Azamgarh district, respectively, while winning only one out of four seats in Mau district. The BJP’s weakness in this eastern U.P. belt also come to fore in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, with the saffron party losing Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Azamgarh parliamentary seats. Even in the Chandauli Lok Sabha seat, which adjoins Ghazipur, the BJP won by less than 14,000 votes. In the Machhali Shahar seat, the saffron party won by a few hundred votes, and in nearby Ballia, the BJP won by less than 18,000 votes in 2019.

The BJP’s weakness in this belt of Eastern U.P. also come to the fore in the 2019 Lok Sabha with the saffron party losing Ghazipur, Janupur and Azamgarh parliamentary seats. Even in Chandauli Lok Sabha seat which is adjoining to Ghazipur, the BJP won by less than 14,000 votes, in Machhali Shahar seat, the saffron party won by a few hundred votes and in nearby Ballia, the BJP won by less than 18,000 votes in 2019.

In Lucknow’s political circles, the renewed alliance with the SBSP is being seen as one among the many steps the BJP is undertaking ahead of next year’s General Elections as the crucial State has 80 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP, which earlier had the ‘Perfect 80’ slogan for the 2024 polls, won 62 seats from U.P. on its own in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, while its small ally, the Apna Dal (Sonelal), won two seats. Now, with both the Apna Dal and the SBSP on its side, the BJP is aiming to maximise its Other Backward Classes (OBC) support base among the non-Yadav OBCs in the State.

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