Former Uttar Pradesh ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini – who resigned this week from the Yogi Adityanath government and the ruling BJP less than 30 days before Assembly polls – today joined the Samajwadi Party in the presence of opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Five other BJP MLAs – Roshanlal Verma, Brijesh Prajapti, Mukesh Verma, Vinay Shakya and Bhagwati Sagar – as well as Chaudhary Amar Singh of the Apna Dal, which is allied with the ruling party – also joined the Samajwadi Party today.
“Today the conch shell has sounded for the end of the BJP. By misleading the people of the country and state, the BJP has thrown dust in their eyes and exploited people. Now it has to be eliminated… and Uttar Pradesh has to be freed of exploitation,” Swami Prasad Maurya declared.
On Wednesday, Mr Maurya – an influential OBC leader earlier with Mayawati’s BSP – told NDTV “all will be revealed on January 14” when asked about furious speculation over his political future.
Mr Maurya quit the UP government on Tuesday, telling NDTV the BJP was “deaf to the problems of the backward classes”. He called his resignation an “earthquake” and the start of the end for the BJP.
“BSP collapsed after I left (and) BJP’s popularity shot up in UP because of me. The endgame has begun for the BJP…” he said ominously, referring repeatedly to the party coming to power a year after he joined, having previously spent 14 years in “banwaas (exile)”.
Dharam Singh Saini quit yesterday – just 24 hours after rubbishing reports he would do so.
He had emphatically dismissed the possibility of his quitting and had even slammed Swami Prasad Maurya; “I am and will be in the BJP. I am not leaving the party,” he had said.
Swami Prasad Maurya’s resignation opened the floodgates, with 10 MLAs, including two ministers, walking out of the BJP over the next 72 hours. All of them claimed the interests of OBC, or other backward classes, had been neglected by the Yogi Adityanath administration.
Bhagwati Sagar, Brijesh Prajapati, and Raushan Lal Verma were the MLAs who walked out with him.
The following day Dara Singh Chauhan, another key OBC leader and also a minister, quit, as did MLA Awtar Singh Bhadana, who is believed to be headed to the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
MLAs Vinay Shakya, Mukesh Verma and Bala Avasthi quit yesterday, with Dharam Singh Saini, as did Apna Dal’s Amar Singh.
As each exit was announced Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav tweeted photos with the leaders – particularly the three ministers – and their similar resignation letters indicated planning and strategy.
For Mr Yadav, a former UP Chief Minister who has established himself as the BJP’s main rival in the February-March election, the acquisition of these OBC leaders is a big boost.
In 2017 the BJP’s strategy was to win over the non-Yadav OBC castes given Mr Yadav’s most loyal voters are seen to be Yadavs and Muslims.
This time round, the Samajwadi Party leader’s game-plan is to pull in the non-Yadav OBC leaders.
Last year, another influential OBC face and a former BJP ally, Omprakash Rajbhar and his Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, crossed over to the Samajwadi Party.
Akhliesh Yadav told NDTV in November that a “pincer” movement of angry farmers (upset over the now-scrapped farm laws) in the west and a “rainbow alliance” of regional parties in the east would “wipe out the BJP” in the election.