Two estranged partners of the Samajwadi Party--Janwadi Party (Socialist) and Mahan Dal--are showing an inclination to return to the Akhilesh Yadav-led opposition alliance to take on the ruling BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.
The leaders of the two OBC caste-based regional parties, which were SP allies in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls but had left the alliance after its defeat in the elections, were all praise for the SP chief.
The development comes days after the exit of Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) from the SP-led alliance.
While the Janwadi Party-Socialist (JPS) says it is strongly with Akhilesh Yadav and gearing up for the 2024 parliamentary polls, the Mahan Dal has said that it was ready to return to the SP-led alliance with a condition—removal of Swami Prasad Maurya.
Talking to PTI, JPS national president Sanjay Chauhan said, 'Akhilesh ji ke saath hai aur rahenge (We are with Akhilesh and will remain with him)”.
Chauhan, who after the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha bypolls had said he would reconsider an alliance with the SP and also criticised Akhilesh for not campaigning for the party candidates, has now softened his tone and tenor.
When asked whether he had any meeting with the SP chief recently, he said, 'We keep on meeting and discuss programmes to strengthen the party for the 2024 polls. I will organise a big event in Lucknow in September.'
Asked about SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, Chauhan said, 'Rajbhar has no political ideology. He does politics of personal interests. He is a 'parjivi prani' (parasite). He needs support to survive. After 20 years of politics, he could not become an MLA until he forged alliance with the BJP.'
Starting his political innings with the BSP, Rajbhar could enter into assembly only in 2017 with the help of the BJP.
Chauhan further said, 'He (Rajbhar) thought Akhileshji will become CM, so he came with the SP. As the SP failed to form a government, his interests are now with the BJP. Had his son been made MLC (by SP), he would have remained in the alliance for some more time.
Chauhan had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket from Chandauli but lost by a thin margin. He had secured about 5 lakh votes.
Chauhan belongs to the OBC Noniya Chauhan community.
The Noniyas and its connected castes are estimated to be 2.3 per cent of the state’s OBC population, which together roughly constitute 40-50 per cent in the state.
The population of the Noniya Chauhans may not appear significant on its own but they are one of the many smaller clusters of the backward caste votes which the BJP have been trying to polarise against the Yadav caste, the support base of the SP.
Mahan Dal national president Keshav Dev Maurya, who left the SP alliance earlier, told PTI that he was not upset with Akhilesh Yadav and praised his work.
'I am not angry or upset with Akhilesh Yadav or his policies. In UP, there is the BJP on the one side and the SP on the other. While the Congress has no presence, the BSP chief is working as a B-team of the BJP.
'Akhileshji is doing good work in the interest of backward, minority and other sections. He is the only leader left,' Maurya said.
When asked whether he could return to the SP, Maurya said, 'Till Swami Prasad Maurya is sitting in his (Akhilesh) lap, it's not possible. I will do hard work and he (Swami Prasad) will eat 'malai'. If he (Akhilesh) loves me, he should remove Swami Prasad, and then only I will return.'
Swami Prasad Maurya, an influential Kushwaha leader, had quit the Yogi Adityanath cabinet ahead of the assembly elections and joined hands with Akhilesh.
He, however, himself lost the election from his traditional Fazilnagar seat in Kushinagar district.
The Mahan Dal chief said Swami Prasad Maurya, Shivpal Yadav and Om Prakash Rajbhar were 'planted' by the BJP in the SP-led alliance before the assembly elections and due to them Akhilesh Yadav tasted defeat in the polls.
'They (Swami Prasad, Rajbhar and Shivpal) made Akhilesh overconfident and he started saying the alliance will be winning 400 seats,' he said, driving home his point.
About his future course of action, Maurya said, 'We are not a big party. We are not in a position to even get an MLA elected alone. Similar is the case with Shivpal, Rajbhar and Jayant Chowdhury's RLD. I will go with the party which considers me as a leader.'
On Shivpal Yadav, Maurya said, 'He has not proved himself. He got a bungalow from the BJP and is working at its behest. Akhilesh Yadav is the biggest leader of the Yadav community and the SP is the largest party for the community. If a drop (Shivpal) comes out of it (SP), nothing will happen.'
The Mahan Dal was launched in 2008 and it is perceived to have an impact in Rohilkhand and western UP regions.
The party claims to have support of OBC castes such as Maurya, Shakya, Khushwaha, Saini and Kamboj.
The Congress had contested the 2012 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha polls with the Mahan Dal.
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