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Politics

As Swami Prasad Maurya Waves BJP Goodbye, Political Contest Heats Up in Uttar Pradesh

His rebellion will likely hit the BJP's prospects in the central and eastern regions, where he is influential among most backward castes.

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Lucknow: Heavyweight Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader and Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya stunned the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership on Tuesday (January 11) with his resignation from the Yogi Adityanath government. Maurya is likely to join the rival Samajwadi Party (SP) camp.

Maurya wrote in his short resignation letter that “despite a divergent ideology, I worked with dedication in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet”.

His rebellion will likely hit the BJP’s prospects in the central and eastern regions, where he is influential among most backward castes.

In another jolt to the ruling party, three of its lawmakers – Tilhar MLA Roshan Lal Verma, Bilhaur MLA Bhagwati Prasad Sagar and Tindwari MLA Brajesh Kumar Prajapati – also resigned following Maurya’s departure. They are also likely to join the SP. After quitting the BJP, the three claimed that more MLAs were on their way out of the BJP.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav posted on Twitter, “Warm welcome and greetings to the popular leader Swami Prasad Maurya ji and other leaders and workers in the party who fought for social justice and equality. There will be a revolution for social justice, there will be change in 2022.”

The former chief minister’s post suggested that he expected a few more leaders from the BJP to join his party. However, Maurya has not yet officially announced his next move.

After defecting from the BJP, Maurya said, “I am a political person and I will be talking to some political party or the other. Who I talk to will be decided after consulting supporters.”

The BJP appeared rattled by the cabinet minister’s resignation. Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya invited him for talks to resolve his grievances, saying on social media, “I don’t know why Swami Prasad Maurya quit, but I appeal to him: don’t quit, but let us talk. Decisions taken in haste can backfire.”

Swami Prasad Muarya’s resignation is being seen as a big blow to the ruling BJP in the run up to the assembly elections. In his absence, votes from the Maurya community, a non-Yadav OBC group, are likely to be split between the BJP and SP. In 2017, non-Yadav OBCs had overwhelmingly voted for the BJP. Maurya has support amongst the OBC Kushwaha community.

Also read: UP Polls: In Samajwadi Party’s Quest for Winnability, Will Muslim Representation Take a Hit?

A senior political analyst, Mudit Mathur, opined that current deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Swami Prasad Maurya would both make efforts to pull the Maurya community votes into their fold. “[Swami Prasad] Maurya is a seasoned politician who used to make decisions based on political trends. Earlier, he shifted his loyalty from the Bahujan Samaj Party to the BJP, and he has now jumped into the SP fold as the Yogi-led BJP government has been facing anti-incumbency due to the agrarian crisis and mismanagement of the second wave of the COVID-19 catastrophe,” Mathur said.

Maurya’s resignation also raised questions about Adityanath’s lofty claims on employment, as his own minister of labour and employment resigned citing the issue of youth unemployment. Of late, the chief minister has claimed that his government has provided 4.5 lakh jobs in the state.

Maurya, an influential OBC leader and five-time MLA, joined the BJP in 2016 after quitting the BSP. He had had a falling out with the party chief, Mayawati, over ticket distribution. He accused the BSP chief of selling tickets; an allegation Mayawati denied.

Political commentators say Maurya’s departure from the saffron camp has made the UP election more interesting. Naveen Joshi former editor of Hindustan, said that there is now a neck-and-neck contest between the BJP and SP.

Imran Masood, a Muslim leader in western UP who was with the Congress, too recently joined the SP; Maurya’s addition would further the party’s chances. Akhilesh Yadav has already taken the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) headed by O.P. Rajbhar, a former BJP ally, into the SP fold.

Political thinkers believe that the BJP has lost its credibility among the backward classes. Professor Ramesh Dixit, former head of the department of political science at Lucknow University, said that the cause of the exodus from the BJP is the injustice done to the backward classes during Adityanath’s regime.

“In the past five years, the UP government has been unjust towards the OBCs and supported only the privileged class. This has caused disillusionment against the saffron party among the backward castes,” said Dixit. He went on to say that the BJP is a sinking ship, at the moment.

SP leader Ameeque Jamei said leaders from different political parties are under coming together under the umbrella of the “Red Revolution” to strengthen the fight for social justice. “They are not joining the SP to become legislators or ministers, but to fight the BJP’s anti-social justice policies,” Jamei said.