LUCKNOW: Hoping to capture a big victory in the Lok Sabha elections, Uttar Pradesh’s ruling BJP is working to keep its team of small parties together by offering them tempting deals where it can and lending a sympathetic ear to their demands.
With the Lok Sabha elections beginning next month, the ruling party in the state plans to challenge the SP-BSP-RLD with help from its allies Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Apna Dal (S).
Smaller parties with sizeable vote banks are gaining traction in the politically-crucial state, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, explained a party insider. It was keeping this factor in mind that chief minister Yogi Adityanath recently gave minister of state (MoS) rank to 75 leaders of his party and allies to keep them in good humour.
“The backing from smaller parties will prove to be the icing on the cake. These parties have considerable vote banks that can help our party in consolidating its position,” a party functionary, requesting anonymity, said.
Although the Bharatiya Janata Party was on a comfortable footing in 2014, the 2019 general elections might be a different ball game, party leaders said.
Even RSS leaders reportedly admitted that the caste challenge posed by the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) combine is formidable.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, these parties had a combined vote share of 42.98 per cent, while the BJP clocked 42.63 per cent. The BJP got 71 seats and the Apna Dal two.
From 1991 to 1999, the BJP got at least 30 per cent votes in each of the four elections it contested in the state during this period.
Its worries started from 2004 when its vote share slipped to 22 per cent and plummeted to an embarrassing 17.5 per cent in 2009, before party president Amit Shah deftly tapped into the ‘Modi wave’ to spin a turnaround in the Hindi heartland in the 2014 general elections.
Come 2019, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to keep its smaller allies SBSP and Apna Dal (S) content.
Leaders of the SBSP and Apna Dal (S), key allies of the National Democratic Alliance, have been appointed top office bearers heads of various commissions, councils and corporations with the perks and status of a minister of state.
SBSP’s Arvind Rajbhar, for instance, has been made chairperson of the UP Small Industries Corporation Limited. He is the son of state cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar.
Rana Ajit Pratap Singh, another office-bearer of the SBSP, is now chairperson of the UP Seeds Development Corporation.
Rajbhar’s party is reportedly also lobbying for two Lok Sabha seats and the BJP is likely to accept the demand, party leaders said.
Apna Dal leaders Ram Lakhan Patel and Rekha Verma were also given MoS ranks and two others from the party have been appointed members of state backward classes commission.
“We are satisfied with BJP’s gesture,” Arvind Sharma of Apna Dal said, adding that the appointment of its party leaders to backward classes commission would help them raise issues related to the backward section effectively.
The opposition parties are looking at the BJP’s extension of an olive branch to its smaller allies as a sign of “eroding confidence”.
“The manner in which these appointments were made hours before the model code of conduct kicked in smacks of BJP’s lack of confidence,” an SP leader said.
Apna Dal comprises ‘Kurmis’, an OBC sub-caste, whereas the SBSP enjoys the support of another OBC sub-caste–Rajbhars–whose voters are spread evenly in eastern UP constituencies.
Both these parties are from Purvanchal from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an MP. Modi represents Varanasi, which falls in the Purvanchal region, in the Lok Sabha.
“This is the region where the opposition will put maximum pressure,” a political expert said.
There are also reports that the BJP is toying with the idea of entering into a pact with Raja Bhaiya’s fledgling political outfit Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik).
A BJP leader from Pratapgarh, the stronghold of Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, said, “There are murmurs, but nothing concrete.”