Explained: How SP’s alliance with Rajbhar’s SBSP can matter and where in UP elections
On Tuesday, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav sealed an alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a former ally of the BJP. What impact can the alliance have on the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh?
Rajbhar and BJP
In the 2017 congregation polls, of the 325 seats in the 403-person house won by the BJP and its allies, the SBSP had won four after running in eight. Then, in the run-up to the 2017 elections, BJP leader Amit Shah held a rally with Rajbhar in Mau, which Akhilesh Yadav did on Tuesday.
Rajbhar himself won the seat in Zahoorabad in Ghazipur, became an MLA for the first time, and was appointed Minister for the Welfare of Backward Classes. However, he resigned shortly afterwards after staging a sit-in in Ghazipur demanding the removal of the then District Judge Sanjay Kumar Khatri.
Rajbhar said at the time that although he was a minister, the officials did not listen to him and that he had to answer to the people. He later met Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath and discussed his problems, but resigned.
The Eastern UP vote
The Rajbhar community makes up an estimated 3-4 percent of UP’s population. This may be a small percentage, but the fact that the community is concentrated to the east of UP – which means a higher percentage of the population in that region – gives it the potential to win multiple seats in the upcoming elections. Additionally, the SBSP’s support base is not limited to the Rajbhar community, but extends to other Most Backward Classes (MBCs) such as Chauhan, Pal, Prajapati, Vishwakarma, Bhar, Mallah and Vishwakarma.
Of the 90 seats in the 18 districts of the Eastern UP, there are around 25-30 constituencies that have high numbers of Rajbhars, including up to 1 lakh in some of them. In their near-sweep of the state, the BJP in the eastern UP gained significant gains, growing from 14 seats in 2012 to 72 in 2017, while the SP slipped from 52 to 9. The SBSP itself claims that its influence continues to expand, encompassing 150 seats, and that the alliance helped the NDA gain 146 of those seats.
However, it remains to be seen whether the votes of the SBSP will be transferred to the SP, as the BJP has done so far.
Rajbhar and SP
Until recently, Rajbhar headed the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, an alliance of smaller parties for the upcoming elections. In December, Rajbhar announced that the Morcha would be part of the AIMIM, headed by Asaddudin Owaisi, and that he was also in talks with the chief of the Bhim army, Chandrashekhar, and the president of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi party, Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle.
However, none of these leaders was present when Rajbhar shared the stage with Akhilesh Yadav in Mau on Tuesday, the party’s 19th anniversary. This is seen as a possible indication that the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha is falling apart.
Now SBSP General Secretary Arun Rajbhar, the son of the party leader, said the party was confident of securing victory for the SP. He said the party will have a say in who wins the seats in a number of districts. Arun Rajbhar named 22 districts – Varanasi, Ghazipur, Mau, Balia, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Basti, Gonda, Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Mirzapur, Ayodhya (these are the 18 in which the BJP has 72 seats won) 2017) as well as Shravasti, Bahraich, Kushinagar and Sultanpur.
“This time the BJP will get fewer than 100 seats in the UP. That was the result of your internal survey. Our votes will definitely be transferred to the SP and Akhilesh Yadav will be the next CM, ”said Arun Rajbhar.
SBSP demands that a caste-based census be conducted to ensure a fair share of reservations, which Akhilesh Yadav has promised if his party forms government.
A senior SP leader said that despite the BJP’s attempt to portray current Backward Class Welfare Minister Anil Rajbhar as the party’s face for the community, his stature was not tall enough to be compared to Om Prakash Rajbhar.
In addition to the SBSP leader, two other great leaders from the Rajbhar community – former BSP leader Ram Achal Rajbhar and the son of former parliamentary speaker Sukhdev Rajbhar, Kamlakant – are now with the SP, which is the party’s hope for more votes from the SP Backwards classes stirs up.
One SP leader said: “The SBSP’s forecast may be different, but there is no doubt that they will help us win 25-30 seats.”
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The SP has already formed an alliance with the Mahan Dal Party, another party that targets the backward classes and is led by Keshav Dev Maurya.
Akhilesh Yadav’s alliances with these smaller parties distance themselves from larger parties like the BSP and Congress.