With the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections inching closer, political activity is picking up steam and parties are stitching new alliances and scouting for new friends to bolster their respective electoral prospects. On Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced its formal alliance with NISHAD Party and Apna Dal and soon after, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav met former Bahujan Samaj Party leaders and sitting legislators Ram Achal Rajbhar and Lalji Verma.
Tweeting a picture of the meeting, the SP chief captioned it as a “courtesy meeting”. However, the picture suggests that the two leaders, expelled from BSP some time ago, may be officially joining the SP soon.
SP sources said that both Rajbhar and Verma may join Samajwadi Party in the presence of Akhilesh Yadav at a grand rally in Ambedkar Nagar in October. Both the former BSP leaders are natives of Ambedkar Nagar district.
Ram Achal Rajbhar is MLA from Akbarpur constituency while Lalji Verma is an MLA from the Katehari seat of Ambedkar Nagar. Both leaders were once considered close to BSP chief Mayawati and were even bestowed with key responsibilities like leader of opposition and BSP national general secretary, respectively. Besides, both also served as cabinet ministers when BSP was in power in the state.
The BSP has faced several splits over the years marked by leaders accusing the leadership of lack of connect. The churning started during Rajya Sabha polls in November 2020 when five MLAs met Akhilesh Yadav and alleged that their support to the BSP candidate was forged.
Subsequently, Mayawati suspended seven MLAs for anti-party activities. These MLAs again met Akhilesh and claimed that with Mayawati recently expelling veterans Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar, they had the support of 11 MLAs.
Prominent leaders who have left or have been expelled from the BSP since 2016 have alleged that extortion and arrogance of the party brass (read Mayawati) were key reasons for their exit from the party.
The fresh concerns seem to be over an unapproachable leadership. Many also feel that it was the combination of Dalit, Muslim and upper caste votes that led to the BSP’s rise in 2007. However, with the steady exodus, the BSP has lost several prominent faces such as Dara Singh Chauhan, Swami Prasad Maurya, Brajesh Pathak and Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
Senior BSP leader and Mayawati’s trusted aide Satish Chandra Mishra has emerged as the thorn in the flesh of the 11 party MLAs who were sacked by Mayawati over the past two years. Most of them accused Mishra of creating the differences and misleading her. Mishra has been a trusted aide of Mayawati and was the key behind the strategy of reaching out to Brahmins that brought BSP to power last in 2007. Since 2007, when the BSP romped home with 206 of the 403 seats and a vote share of 30 per cent and formed a government in Uttar Pradesh, it slid to 80 seats (25 per cent votes) in 2012 and 19 seats (22 per cent votes) in 2017.