‘All will be revealed on January 14 (Friday)’ – influential OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya’s response to furious speculation surrounding his political future after he quit the BJP and the Yogi Adityanath government yesterday ahead of elections in less than 30 days.
Mr Maurya told NDTV the BJP was “deaf to the problems of the backward classes” and that the party had “done me no favours by making me a minister”. In fact, Mr Maurya argued that the BJP should be grateful to him for having ended its “14 years of banwaas (exile)” with victory in 2017, which he proudly linked to his coming on board – from Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party – the year before.
“Kahan aane waale hai, kahan jaane waale hai, (where I am coming and where I am going) … everything will be clear on January 14,” Mr Maurya, widely expected to take at least four MLAs with him to Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, said.
A five-time MLA, Mr Maurya delivered a veiled threat to the BJP – he referred to his picking the winning side before the past two Assembly elections.
“See… before I quit the BSP it was the No 1 party in UP. Now it is nowhere. When I joined the BJP, it came out of 14 years’ banwaas (exile) and formed a majority government…” he told NDTV.
“BSP collapsed after I left (and) BJP’s popularity shot up in UP because of me. They didn’t do me any favours by making me a minister. The endgame has begun for the BJP…” he said ominously.
The BJP, riding high on the ‘Modi wave’, romped to victory in 2012 winning 312 of 403 seats – an increase of 265 from 2012. The BSP, on the other hand, slumped from 80 in 2012 to 19 in 2017.
“My move has caused a bhuchaal (earthquake) in the BJP,” he bragged to NDTV earlier today.
Mr Maurya refuted suggestions his exit was a political play, particularly since it comes so close to an election, saying: “When I was in the cabinet, I did my job to the best of my abilities. I put forth my points on the right platforms then… but today I feel the media is the right platform.”
He also played down talk over the arrest warrant issued in his name today – 24 hours after his resignation – in connection with a 2014 hate speech case. “If there is a case, the law and the judiciary is there to judge it. I will make my points in a court of law,” he said.
Mr Maurya’s exit from the party and the Yogi Adityanath cabinet (with that of four MLAs and, today, another minister and influential OBC face in Dara Singh Chauhan) are blowing a hole in the BJP’s plans before an election where the party’s main challenger is Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.
Votes from OBC communities are critical for the BJP, particularly since a backlash is expected from the large number of farmers after controversy over the now-scrapped farm laws.
Swami Prasad Maurya was key to the BJP’s strategy to win those votes and counter Akhilesh Yadav.
Mr Yadav, for his part, has been quick to welcome Mr Maurya and his supporters to the party; “… there will be revolution for social justice… There will be change,” he said.