The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), amid news of its MLAs changing sides and new entrants joining the party, seems to have finalised its seat-sharing formula with its existing alliance partners, the Apna Dal and the Nishad Party. As per reports, the decision on the number of seats is almost fixed, but a formal announcement is expected soon.
The numbers were finalised on Wednesday (12 January) in a meeting between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and leaders of Apna Dal - Union Minister Anupriya Patel and her husband Ashish Patel, as well as Dr Sanjay Nishad of the Nishad Party.
As per reports, the Apna Dal could contest on 10-14 seats and the Nishad Party will fight on 13-17 seats in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
The BJP has already fixed the number of seats for its allies, but a decision is yet to be made regarding which seat will be allotted to whom. It has also been agreed upon that a few leaders of the Apna Dal and the Nishad Party will contest the elections on BJP tickets. In addition to this, news agency ANI reported that the BJP core leadership has also finalised its candidates for 172 assembly seats where votes will be cast in the initial phases of the UP 2022 assembly polls.
The Nishad Party and Apna Dal, both exercise considerable influence among the non-Yadav OBC voter space, mainly in eastern Uttar Pradesh. In the last two-three days, numerous senior OBC leaders, including the likes of Swami Prasad Maurya and Dhara Singh Chauhan, have defected from the BJP. These recent defections, in addition to the eight vacant seats due to the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party’s (SBSP) alliance with the SP, have enhanced the bargaining power of these small parties.
The Nishad Factor
The party contested 72 seats on its own in the 2017 UP assembly elections, but won only one. But it did catch the public eye for the time after it managed to secure a victory on the extremely crucial Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat on an SP ticket - a strong foothold of the BJP since 1989 and home to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
As per historical electoral data, the Nishad Party has a marginal presence in about two dozen seats and a material presence in nine. In 2017, the BJP’s vote share in these nine seats averaged a meagre 28 per cent - one reason being the multi-polar nature of the contest. However, as the contest turned bipolar due to the SP-BSP alliance in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s average vote share in these seats went up by a stupendous 21 per cent.
The inference is that the BJP now stands to make further gains in these nine seats, since the BSP is no longer allied with the SP, the Muslim vote is expected to rally under the SP banner in 2022, and the bulk of the vote gains the BJP made through their tie-up with the Nishad Party will be carried forward into the 2022 elections.
Apna Dal’s Influence
In the 2017 UP assembly polls, the Apna Dal, which has influence among Kurmi votes, contested 11 seats and won nine. Since then, the Apna Dal has expanded its footprints beyond the party stronghold in eastern UP.
Apna Dal president and Union Minister of State (Commerce and Industry) Anupriya Patel, in the run up to the UP 2022 assembly polls, has held rallies in Banda and Jhansi (Bundelkhand region); Ayodhya, Basti, Kushinagar, and Azamgarh (eastern UP), and Pratapgarh (central UP). Recently, party spokesperson Rajesh Patel claimed that acceptance of the party has increased across all sections of people- including OBCs, SCs, STs, and upper castes as well- and claimed that they are ready to contest 200 Assembly seats.
In 2017, Apna Dal demanded 17 seats but it got only 11 seats, out of which it secured a victory of nine seats. As per reports, citing its past records, Anupriya Patel demanded 36 seats this time, including seats from Awadh, Bundelkhand, and Kanpur regions other than those of Purvanchal. Apna Dal leaders believe that they have a strong claim on about two dozen seats.
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