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Interview | 'People Who Adored Yogi, Modi, Are Now Abusing Them': Om Prakash Rajbhar

Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leader speaks to 'The Wire' on how caste was exploited by BJP and why it won't work this time.

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In an interview with The Wire‘s senior editor Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party president and former cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar has claimed that at least 18-20 MLAs will resign from the BJP and join the Samajwadi Party by January 20. Following are edited excerpts of the interview. Watch the full video here.

There was a fresh twist in the on-going battle for Uttar Pradesh as the state unit of the Bhartiya Janata Party suffered back-to-back political defections soon after poll dates were announced recently. Several OBC MLAs have resigned from the BJP, including two prominent faces – Swami Prasad Maurya and cabinet minister Dara Singh Chauhan. Can we view this as a rebellion of sorts among the Backward Classes?

You are absolutely correct. We had played a crucial role in the formation of the government in Uttar Pradesh but the kind of neglect faced by Backward Classes, Dalits, deprived sections and minorities is unprecedented.

In 2017-18, for instance, there were seven lakh general category students and more than thrice, that is, 25 lakh, children hailing from backward castes. However, the same amount of Rs 700 crore was allocated for granting scholarship to students in both the categories. Being a cabinet minister, I witnessed it and raised my voice against the injustice. 

We took the issue to the chief minister but he did not pay heed. Following this, I personally met all the backward caste leaders who were ministers in the cabinet, such as Keshav Prasad Maurya, Swami Prasad Maurya, S.P. Pal, Dara Singh Chauhan and discussed the matter. It is gross injustice. All the students, whether in general or any other category, have equal rights to all facilities in schools. 

Though all the leaders I met acknowledged the injustice, they said that being an independent only I could raise my voice against it but since they were party members they would raise the matter in the party forum alone. 

When they tried to bring up the matter in the party, however, the top brass brushed it off. An arrogance had crept up in the party after winning 325 seats and they believed that they had the licence to act arbitrarily for the next five years. 

Both Dara Singh and Swami Prasad Maurya stayed with this allegedly casteist government for five years, and served as ministers. Why then are they suddenly crying foul right before the election and complaining of injustice against the backward classes?

We had talks almost a year ago but when we did a political study, and we realised that if we were to leave the party then, the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI would come after us and we would be framed in false cases. In that case, our struggle for the rights of the deprived, backward, and downtrodden would bear the brunt. We thought of devising a proper plan.

Therefore, it was decided that all of us would resign one by one once the model code of conduct is implemented before the state goes to polls. Our fears were also proved right because as soon as Swami Prasad Maurya resigned from the party, he was served a court notice [arrest warrant] the next day. Why was he not served a notice for five years when he was a minister with the government? We had to adopt this strategy in order to avoid such a situation. 

Also read: UP: Even As SP Maurya Gets Arrest Warrant for 2014 ‘Hate Speech’, Another BJP Minister Quits

They had made up their mind in November itself and decided that after the model code of conduct is in place, each of them will gradually resign from the party.

I had already stated two months ago on various channels and platforms that two days after the model code of conduct is imposed, 18-20 ministers will join the Samajwadi Party, especially from the backward classes. They are the ones whose voices were not being heard for the last five years and who were feeling suffocated. The party has maintained a fascist attitude. The OBC MLAs only stayed back out of fear of being implicated in false charges. 

While you claim that this was part of a strategy, there are allegations that you are hand-in-glove with the BJP leaders. Brijesh Pathak even claimed that Jayant Chaudhary and you will return to the BJP. How far are these claims true?

The BJP is a party of liars who follow the use-and-throw principle. They mislead the backward, downtrodden and deprived sections of the society to get votes. These claims are totally false. If you heard his statement, Brijesh Pathak said that we meet him…

As far as the other leader you mentioned is concerned, he is in a tussle with his wife. You must have seen the reports about Dayashankar ji. Both of them are fighting for a ticket from Sarojini Nagar. Dayashankar Singh has worked hard for the BJP for a long time. But he has got no credit for it. This time, he has resolved to contest the elections. He visited me asking to either field him or arrange for a ticket for him by recommending him to Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. He preferred a ticket from Sarojini Nagar, and I assured him 10,000 to 15,000 votes, whichever seat he contested from. 

Secondly, people should not believe everything they hear. If I, Om Prakash Rajbhar, craved power, I would not have resigned after 18 months. My fight against the BJP is not for personal reasons.

They (the BJP) had promised to conduct a caste census, waive household electricity bills, implement the Social Justice Committee report, and provide free medical treatment to the poor. They had also promised to implement uniform free education. I waited for 18 months but when they refused to fulfil the promises, I resigned. 

Let’s assume that Akhilesh Yadav fails to win as many seats as required to form the government and the BJP emerges as the single largest party. Would you then continue being in the alliance or join the BJP again?

The people of Uttar Pradesh have made up their mind. They want change. There is no doubt that a majority government is going to be formed. I can spend five years sitting in the opposition but am not going to join the BJP camp again.

Photo: Twitter/@akhileshyadav

How many seats do you expect to get in the election? 

The leaders of all the ally parties had a meeting at Akhilesh Yadav’s residence where it was decided that the party which casts influence in a particular area will convey to the respective voters that after forming the government we will conduct a caste census, waive off household electricity bill for five years, provide medical treatment to the poor and implement a uniform system of education. We will promote these issues in our campaigns.

Tickets will be distributed based on phase-wise lists prepared according to the party’s influence in each phase. I assure you that we will contest the elections in four phases – fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. We will fight to get recognition for our party. This should make it clear how many seats we are going to get. 

You had eight seats last time. Are you going to contest the polls on eight seats this time as well? 

I cannot disclose this as of now because we have been asked not to. But I can definitely assure you that we will contest on more than twice the seats as the BJP.

Political analysts and psephologists claim that even if the BJP suffers a loss of a hundred seats, it will still form the government.

Those who are doing analyses sitting in the comfort of their homes in cities do not know the ground reality. The day Akhilesh Yadav and I held a rally in Mau, Uttar Pradesh was taken by storm. It spelled doom for the BJP.

No one knows that in Purvanchal, we have 12 to 22% vote share on 163 seats. Moreover, we have made efforts to unite caste-based organisations and political parties like Ardhbansi, Banjara, Baheliya, Arar, Khanhar, Prajapati, Pal, Nishad, Kashyap, Dhobi, Dhankar, Pasi, Khatik, Valmiki, Paswan, Nain, Gond and others. We have highlighted the fact that only nine castes are talked about in Uttar Pradesh while others are not even mentioned. We urge all of them to unite and fight for their right. 

The Prajapati community has a vote share of 10,000 to 40,000 on 430 seats in Uttar Pradesh. The Pal community has a similar vote share as do the Kashyaps and other castes, like Nishad. But these votes do not count.

At the time of elections, no one considers them crucial. People of Nishad, Kashyap, and Bhil communities had staged many protests for reservation. On December 17, lakhs of protesters poured in the Ramabai Maidan to demand reservation.

The promises made to these communities were only ‘jumlas’ as our home minister called it. His programme was disrupted when protestors shouted slogans of ‘no reservation, no vote’ and turned the venue upside down. How will the BJP face their wrath?

Claiming to end casteism and Muslim ‘appeasement’, the BJP formed the government in the name of Hinduism. Would your attempts not divide Uttar Pradesh along caste again?

First of all, we are not Hindus. A real Hindu is the one who has undergone the Upanayana ceremony and wears the janeu (the sacred thread). There are crores of people who have been merged under the umbrella term of ‘Hindu’ to bag votes. There are 1,700 police stations in Uttar Pradesh. None of them have a member of any of the castes like Nain, Gond, Pal, Prajapati, Bhil, Rajbhar, Chauhan, Ardhbansi, Baheliya, Khanhar, etc. posted as inspector there. Is this Hinduism?

There are 75 districts, but not a single District Magistrate hails from these castes. None of the 350 SDMs belong to any of these castes. Is this what you call Hinduism? By painting us all as Hindus, they are leaving different sections of the society deprived. 

According to the district-wise data of Uttar Pradesh, there are 26 police stations in Benaras and Ghazipur each. But not even a single SHO belongs to these castes. We are only being looted in the name of bringing Hindus on a single platform. When we demand our rights, we are termed anti-Hindu. 

The construction of Ram temple has started, Kashi corridor has been inaugurated and Mathura is the next agenda. Why are you then worried about reservation? 

Tell me, will the poor get educated if a temple is built? Will the children of the poor become teachers, doctors, engineers, and collectors? Will the people of Dalit community get jobs if a temple is built in Mathura? Will they get educated and find employment?

Let them who profit from the temple, fight for the temple. Our fight is for education, health, and jobs. We fight for housing and toilets for our backward communities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes a dip in the Ganga river during his visit to Varanasi, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

When elections approach, the BJP plays Hindu-Muslim politics. It views everyone as Hindu and calls everyone Hindu. I had also played my part in forming this government as did Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh. But the backward communities are being stripped of their rights. Are they not Hindus?

Today, I say it loud and clear – Thakurs are being favoured in Yogi Adityanath’s rule.

There were six DMs from Thakur community under the Samajwadi government, now there are 21. No one utters a word of protest today. After Yogi became chief minister, the houses of Tiwari, Brajesh Mishra, and Vijay Mishra are raided.

Khushi Dubey has been in jail for 10 months. Because they are Brahmins, action is taken against them. On the other hand, wanted criminals with reward of Rs 25,000, are seen playing cricket right under the nose of the police. 

All over Uttar Pradesh, Yadavs and Brahmins are facing action. Members of backward castes like Kurmi, Patel, Kenwat, Malla, Prajapati, Nishad, etc. are also facing action. But Yogi’s bulldozers do not run over Thakurs. For him, only Ateeq Ahmed and Mukhtar Ansari are the mafia. But there are many other mafia lords in UP each with hundreds of cases against them. But since they are Yogi’s fellow community members, no action will be taken against them. This is their Hinduism.

Are you saying that even the Brahmins have no place in Yogi’s thakurvada? Apart from Dalits and Muslims, are Brahmins also being harassed? 

A 17-year-old Brahmin boy was killed in an encounter. Khushi Dubey had arrived at her in-laws’ house only four days before being arrested. What was her fault? Because she is Brahmin, does it make her entire family guilty? Isn’t it injustice that Khushi Dubey is arrested but a wanted criminal is allowed to play cricket? I am only describing what I see. 

We don’t want to be painted as Hindus. We want rights, we want respect. We need education, better health facilities and employment. We need a roof over our heads and toilets. We need food, clothes, houses and medicines. We are fighting for it. We have had enough of Hindu versus Muslim.

Adityanath says that whoever commits an offence will be punished. Isn’t it possible that the Thakur community members are not carrying out any criminal activities under his rule?

Despite having 106 cases against him, a Thakur community member is not treated as mafia. There are others with several dozen cases against them. But none of their properties get bulldozed on Yogi’s orders. They won’t be labelled as mafia. Because they are his fellow community members. 

People like Mukesh Rajbhar, Gauri Yadav, and Sujit Maurya are killed in encounters but not those facing hundreds of charges. They’re nurtured instead. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by UP CM Yogi Adityanath on his arrival at athe airport in Kanpur, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Photo: PTI

The non-Yadav OBC community at large is being urged to sacrifice a little bit for the sake of the temple to protect the larger Hindu good. Reservation, employment, and education can take a back seat. Will you be able to convince such people that they are being made scapegoats in the name of sacrifice?

People have understood it. Bearing the brunt of inflation has caused them to panic. They want to get rid of inflation and don’t want to the label of Hindu. They want free and compulsory education for their children and not Hinduism. Their educated youth want jobs. Those who are extremely backward want free medical treatment for the sick and not the Hindu tag. 

What good does it do being labelled a Hindu? Didn’t we join the BJP as Hindus? In the recruitment of 68,500 teachers, 27 percent posts are reserved for backward castes and 22.5 percent for scheduled castes and tribes. But Yogi ji robbed us of our rights. After an investigation, the Backward Classes Commission also found that reservation rules have not been implemented fairly. 

In his speeches, Yogi stated how recruitment has been carried out in a transparent way and no injustice has been done. But soon he exposed his lies himself when he tweeted that he would ensure that the quota of the reserved category is filled. Twenty three thousand posts meant for backward classes and Dalits were snatched away from them. He admitted that the quota was not completely filled. They are looting the share of backward and Dalits by portraying them all as Hindus.

My question to Yogi is – how many Rajbhars and other backward caste members got jobs? His officers are boldly demanding bribe. They drive our people away after asking about their caste. No FIR is lodged. 

A large section of the media alleges that the two BJP ministers resigned because of their own poor performance. The party also wanted to remove them to avoid any problem in the elections. In a situation where you do not have a media network and resources, how will you send your message across to the OBC community?

We have made our point. The owners of these big media houses may be loyal to Modi but when their employees visit the villages, they expose the BJP leaders. In the villages, no one is willing to even hear the name of BJP. People are upset and driving away BJP MLAs who are slapped, thrashed and their clothes are torn. At least three dozen such incidents have been reported recently.

We have already reached out to our community members. We are now relying on orally delivering our message. People in the villages are told to quickly switch the channel if it displays the photo of Modi, Yogi or Amit Shah. Nobody wants to see them. Those who used to adore Yogi ji and Modi ji are now abusing them.

Moreover, if the party planned to remove these ministers, why would their names be included in the cabinet expansion some time ago? The media does not shed light on it. If these people had resigned earlier, they would be thrown behind bars on fake charges.

To avoid it, they took this decision at the right time for the sake of their community.

Are more people planning to defect from the BJP?

I had already made a list. I have also got their photographs clicked with Akhilesh Yadav.

For instance, you must have seen how within minutes of Swami Prasad Maurya reaching the Raj Bhavan with his resignation, his photo with Akhilesh Yadav was released. Similarly, when Dara Singh Chauhan ji reached Raj Bhavan to tender his resignation, his photo with Akhilesh was circulated on social media within minutes. A whole system has been in place.

At least one and a half dozen cabinet ministers hailing from backward and Dalit communities have made up their mind. By January 20 all of them will resign. None of them will stay back.