New Delhi: With less than a month to go before Uttar Pradesh goes to polls in all seven phases of the Lok Sabha elections, the opposition in the state has witnessed a rise in the number of leaders who have switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
After rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) announced an alliance in January for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many leaders who have held key positions in their respective parties have defected to the BJP.
According to a report in the Indian Express, 28 leaders from different opposition parties in UP, including the SP, RLD and Congress, have joined the BJP over the last month. Fifteen people who have switched to the BJP are from the BSP, including 11 who have contested on its symbol in state and general elections.
Amongst them is Vijay Prakash Jaiswal, the BSP candidate in Varanasi against Narendra Modi during the 2014 general elections. An OBC leader, he switched to the BJP after his constituency was allotted to the SP. Speaking to Times of India, Jaiswal said he was “inspired by the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and wanted to “serve the nation in a better way”.
He joins another BSP leader, Gutiyari Lal Duwesh of Agra, a Dalit leader who was elected as an MLA on a BSP ticket from the Agra Cantonment in 2012.
Several other BSP leaders, too, have switched camps to join the BJP, many of whom were disappointed after their seat was earmarked for the other party for the upcoming elections. These include former BSP national spokesperson Ummed Pratap Singh, Vedram Bhati, former minister and Dalit leader Ramhet Bharti, three-time MLA and former minister Chhotelal Verma, party’s election in-charge of Agra Udyan Sharma and party coordinators Rishabh Tiwari and Dhruv Parashar.
The BJP’s state general secretary, Vijay Bahadur Pathak told the Indian Express, “We have kept our doors open for new leaders, this will add new voters to the party. More people will join the BJP in the coming days.”
The BJP, which has previously endorsed accepting opposition leaders into its fold, has been flexing its political muscles in UP by gradually scraping away at the electoral alliance between the BSP and SP.
This string of defections is not isolated to UP, as several leaders from Congress and other opposition parties across the country from Maharashtra and Gujarat have defected to the BJP.
To nullify any personal anti-incumbency in the state against its own MPs, the BJP will revise its list of candidates. The Hindustan Times reported that the BJP was expected to exclude at least one-fourth of its MPs from UP to ward off any anti-incumbency in the state. The BJP is expected to release its first list of candidates for the first two phases on March 16.
Priyanka Gandhi, who is expected to be a dynamic force behind the Congress’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, has been ramping up electioneering efforts: Just this week, she visited Chandrashekhar Azad, leader of the Bhim Army, after he was hospitalised after being detained for allegedly violating the code of conduct.
The jury is still out as to whether the triangular contest will hinder or bolster the party’s electoral prospects in the state which sends a whopping 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
In 2014, the BJP won 71 seats but later lost three of them – Gorakhpur, Phulpur, and Kairana – in by-elections to a united opposition. The general elections will commence on April 11 and continue till May 19, as the state will hold elections in all seven phases. The SP and the BSP will contest 37 and 38 seats respectively.
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