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Om Prakash Rajbhar is an MLA from Zahoorabad constituency of Uttar Pradesh and the president of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party. Although his party has been in the electoral fray for long, it was only in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections – when it allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – that the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party managed to make its debut, winning four seats.
Rajbhar was made a cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government and headed the Department of Backward Classes Welfare and the Department of Disabled People development before he was sacked in May 2019, following a prolonged rift. He claims to have a strong influence in the Purvanchal region, where the Rajbhars – an Other Backward Classes (OBC) community – are believed to constitute 18% of the population.
He spoke to The Wire on Uttar Pradesh’s assembly election in 2022, key issues in the state, who could he ally with and the party’s future roadmap. Edited excerpts follow.
How are your party’s preparations for the upcoming assembly polls?
We have formed a Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha for the upcoming polls consisting of 10 parties including Premchand Prajapati, Babu Ram Pal, Ram Karan Kashyap, Anil Chauhan, Babu Singh Kushwaha, Krishna Patel, etc. For the past 20 months, all of us have been strengthening our booth teams as well as the organisation.
Which parties are with you as of now?
Premchand Prajapati’s Bhagidari Party, Babu ram Pal’s Rashtroday Party, Ram Sagar Bind’s Bharat Mata Party, Krishna Patel’s Apna Dal, Babu Singh Kushwaha’s Jan Adhikar Party, Ram Karan Kashyap’s Bhartiya Vanchit Samaj Party and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
What was the primary reason to break ties with the BJP?
The BJP makes several promises while stitching together alliances and get votes from different communities. But it does not fulfil these promises. The BJP promised to implement the Samajik Nyaya Samiti report [which proposed that more castes should be added to the OBC list], but so far has not. They also promised to waive off domestic electricity bills in the state, provide free healthcare facilities to the poor and implement a uniform education system, but did not fulfil any of these.
We asked them to conduct a survey for the homeless poor to better implement the scheme to provide them with houses. In villages, these poor people are being asked to pay Rs 30,000 or 40,000 by the Pradhan or block development officers, which they cannot afford. People who are actually eligible for the homes under the scheme are not getting them. We were told to help form a ‘double engine’ government to get all these things done. We did so, but the BJP did not fulfil any of its promises. All these factors played a role in the party breaking our ties with the BJP.
Why do you think the BJP is not implementing the Samajik Nyaya Samiti report?
The BJP is an enemy of the backward classes. If they have the slogan ‘Sab ka saath, Sab ka Vikaas’, why are they hesitating to conduct the OBC caste census? This will give a clear picture of everyone’s population. It would help in proper allocation of resources. But the BJP doesn’t want to do it.
Why, in your opinion, is the BJP hesitant to conduct the OBC caste census?
Those in power are business-minded. The Gujaratis are all businessmen. They just want to do business. You must have heard the famous slogan ‘Hum do, hamare do’. Similarly, the BJP has just two leaders: Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and they look after the interest of two people – [Gautam] Adani and Ambani. The government is being run by the support of Adani and Ambani and they don’t want to get the caste census conducted as it would require further allocations to the budget of education, healthcare and other sectors.
How has the BJP treated backward classes in the past four and half years?
Let me give you some examples. Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya [who is from an OBC community] was made to sit on a stool, while another deputy CM Dinesh Sharma and CM Yogi Adityanath were sitting on a chair. Just a few days ago, the home minister, chief minister and all other leaders were sitting on a sofa and Swatantra Dev Singh [another leader from an OBC community] was made to sit on a plastic chair. Is it not unequal treatment? The leaders of backward communities who are in the BJP should resign from the party.
Backward castes other than Yadavs voted heavily in favour of the BJP in 2019. Do you think they will vote differently in 2022?
There was a reason why people voted for the BJP. They were fed up with the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress. They saw the BJP as an alternative then, but now they are fed up with the BJP and are looking for a new alternative.
Who is that new alternative?
Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha.
Your allies in Bihar included Asaduddin Owaisi. There has not been much clarity about him in UP. Will you ally in UP too?
Yes, absolutely. We are together.
Which party are you most likely to join hands with amongst the SP, BJP, BSP and the Congress?
Any party except the BJP. The saffron party takes the top spot when it comes to lying and deceiving. Only those who place their self-interest over the interest of society can ally with the BJP. The day anyone talks about participation (based on caste with the BJP), they will be shown the door.
What was discussed in your meeting with expelled BSP MLA Ram Achal Rajbhar?
I went to meet him personally. I told him if the BSP is not withdrawing the order against him, he is welcome to come and work with our party. I look at him like my elder brother. He can contest the election from our party, we will make him a minister and fight together for the betterment of society. Though he told me that he was inclined to do so, I haven’t received a positive response yet.
Did you meet and offer the same things to another expelled BSP MLA, Lalji Verma?
Yes, we gave the same invitation to him.
You spoke to Shivpal Yadav as well. Will he also join the morcha?
We are trying to get him on board.
You met Swatantra Dev Singh. Were there any political discussions?
It was a courtesy call. It is obvious that if two leaders are sitting in a room, they will discuss politics. He talked about his party, I talked about mine.
Are there any conditions for a party to enter into your alliance?
We don’t have any conditions. We believe that domestic electricity bills of the poor and deprived should be waived off, free healthcare should be made available to the needy and uniform and mandatory education should be implemented. We also believe that a caste census should be conducted and 33% reservation should be given to women. The poor should be provided homes without officials harassing them for bribes.
What are the five key issues of the state?
The most important issue is education. Free, mandatory and uniform education. Education is the only way for the development of the society, the state and the country.
After that, the other crucial issues are employment, shelter, food and healthcare.
How do you rate the state government’s performance on these five issues?
This government has completely failed on these issues. This government is good at dividing Hindus and Muslims, giving protection to criminals and letting inflation grow. This government is a complete failure in terms of development, in controlling inflation and corruption. The Yogi government has mastered the art of creating communal tensions.
How do you rate the BJP’s four and half years in the state?
They have ruined the state. Corruption is at its peak. Recently released CAG reports have highlighted the government’s corruption even in religious activities. The report has exposed that while the government claimed to have bought tractors, in truth, mopeds and scooters were purchased.
They also protect criminals who are from certain castes.
Kafeel Khan got relief from the high court recently. How do you see the action taken against him?
Injustice was done to him because he is a Muslim. The government is discriminating on the basis of religion. Being a Muslim is a crime here.
Lately, patriotism has become a point of debate in the country. What is Om Prakash Rajbhar’s definition of patriotism?
Patriotism includes justice for everyone living in the country. There must be unity, peace, brotherhood amongst all. Injustice in the name of patriotism is not right.
What is your opinion on changing the names of some cities?
If changing the name leads to development, the entire population of the state should be renamed Ambani and Adani.