Samajwadi Party, Rajbhar's SBSP 'Join Hands' for UP Assembly Polls

While SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar met with SP president Akhilesh Yadav in the state capital, there was no clarity from either party about the formation of a pre-poll alliance.

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Lucknow: Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a former partner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), announced on Wednesday that it would join hands with the Samajwadi Party (SP) for the upcoming assembly elections.

While SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar met with SP president Akhilesh Yadav in the state capital, there was no clarity from either party about the formation of a pre-poll alliance.

The meeting lasted an hour, following which Rajbhar wrote in a Hindi tweet, “This time, the BJP will be wiped out. SP and SBSP have come together. The days of the BJP government, which betrayed all sections along with Dalits, backward minorities, are numbered.

Rajbhar also posted a 30-second video clip of his meeting with the former chief minister on social media.

But Akhilesh, who had tweeted a picture of the meeting with Rajbhar, did not mention the formation of an alliance. Akhilesh described it as a “courtesy meet”.

Soon after this, the SP tweeted that the two parties have ‘joined hands’.

The Hindi tweet said, “Samajwadi Party and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party will fight the battle of the deprived, the oppressed, the backward, the Dalits, women, farmers, youth, every weaker section. SP and SBSP have joined hands. BJP will be wiped out in UP.”

Senior leaders from both parties seemed to confirm that an alliance was on the cards.

When The Wire contacted SP spokesperson Sumaiya Rana, she said that the parties would form an alliance. She said her party is committed to the welfare of backward classes. The party’s leadership supports the demand for a caste-based census made by Rajbhar’s party, she said.

SBSP general secretary Arun Rajbhar also told The Wire that his party had sent an open proposal to the SP, the BSP and the Congress to form an alliance on October 14. “We got a positive response only from Akhilesh Yadav, so the party decided to join hands with the SP,” he said. However, he chose to be tight-lipped about the future of the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha (BSM).

The Morcha had been stitched together by Rajbhar after his expulsion from the Yogi Adityanath government. The alliance includes the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which has an active presence in Bihar and Telangana and is led by Asaduddin Owaisi; the Bhagidari Party (P) led by Premchandra Prajapati; Bharatiya Vanchit Samaj Party; Bhartiya Manav Samaj Party; Janata Kranti Party (R); and Rashtra Uday Party. Discussions are ongoing with Azad Samaj Party chief Chandra Shekhar Azad for its inclusion.

None of the parties in the BSM, including the AIMIM, have reacted to the decision of the SBSP and SP joining forces.

On the question of seat-sharing, Arun Rajbhar told The Wire that a decision would be taken by the top brass of both parties in later meetings. He said that the parties will organise a joint public meeting on October 27 in Mau of eastern UP.

Also Read: Interview | Those Who Ally With BJP Place Self-Interest Above Society: Om Prakash Rajbhar

A brittle alliance?

Political commentators say that any possible alliance is likely to be brittle. Atul Chandra, a journalist who was formerly with the Times of India, told The Wire that SBSP chief Rajbhar has high political ambitions. “If the SP gets the majority, he will demand a cabinet berth. If Akhilesh fails to secure a majority, Rajbhar may walk away and return to his old refuge, the BJP,” Chandra said.

“But the SP may gain new votes from this arrangement,” he added.

The SBSP claims that it is influential in more than 150 seats in the Varanasi, Devipatan, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh divisions of eastern UP. Members of the Rajbhar caste account for nearly 18% of the population in eastern UP. However, the Rajbhar community accounts for around 5-6% of the state’s total OBC population.

The party also claims to hold sway over sub-castes such as Prajapati Bansi, Aarkh, Arkvanshi, Paswan, Kharwar, Kashyap, Pal, Nai, Bind, Banjara, Bari, Biar and Vishwakarma.

Rajbhar began his political career in the early 1980s with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He quit the party in 2001, after a fallout with Mayawati over the renaming of Bhadohi as Sant Kabir Nagar.

Later, Rajbhar founded the SBSP, which is headquartered in Varanasi. The party has contested in at least seven elections in UP and Bihar but was not very successful.

In the last Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017, SBSP joined hands with the BJP and won four assembly seats. Rajbhar was also elected from the Zahoorabad (Ghazipur) constituency. The BJP offered Rajbhar a ministerial berth in the Adityanath cabinet, as minister of the Department of Backward Classes Welfare and the Department of Disabled People’s Development.

On May 20, 2019, Rajbhar was sacked from the cabinet due to “anti-alliance activities”. After his resignation, Rajbhar told the press that the BJP had betrayed him and made false promises of sub-categorising the OBCs of UP into three groups and splitting the 27% existing reservation accordingly.

Soon, he began efforts to stitch together an anti-BJP alliance, which took the shape of the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha. With the SBSP now joining hands with Akhilesh Yadav, what will happen to the Morcha remains to be seen.