UP Assembly elections: BJP minister and 4 MLAs’ exit from party puts spotlight on caste equations in the state

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The Bharatiya Janata Party was on the backfoot on Tuesday when OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya resigned from the state cabinet while four other MLAs announced they are quitting the party.

Maurya, who joined the Samajwadi Party (SP), said he resigned from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet “due to the attitude of gross neglect” towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders.

BJP Tindwari MLA Brijesh Prajapati and Tilhar MLA Roshan Lal Varma also announced they are leaving the party in support of Maurya.

Here’s a detailed look at who left the BJP and examine if their exit could dent the party’s chances in the upcoming Assembly elections in the populous state.

Departures from BJP

Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya posted his resignation letter on Twitter on Tuesday.

In his letter, he alleged negligence towards Dalits, farmers, small and medium scale businesses and unemployed youths by the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.

Maurya is a powerful OBC (Other Backward Class) leader and a five-time MLA. He joined the BJP in 2016 after quitting Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.

After announcing his decision to quit the saffron party, Akhilesh Yadav shared a photo of him with Maurya on Twitter, and welcomed him into the SP fold.

"I warmly welcome Swami Prasad Maurya, a leader who fights for social justice and equality, and all his supporters. There will be a revolution in social justice. Change is coming in 2022," Yadav tweeted in Hindi.

Interestingly, his daughter Sanghmitra Maurya is a BJP MP and represents Badaun in Lok Sabha.

His tenure in the BSP was a long and eventful one — he was in the party for more than two decades and also served as a minister twice in both of Mayawati’s governments.

Shortly after Maurya announced his exit, MLAs Roshan Lal Verma, Brijesh Prajapati, Bhagwati Sagar and Vinay Shakya also made the same declaration.

However, in the case of Vinay Shakya it quickly turned into a fracas with his daughter alleging that her father had gone missing after her uncle and grandmother took him to Lucknow from Auraiya.

Amid reports that Shakya too was to join the Samajwadi Party like Swami Prasad Maurya, the Bidhuna MLA's daughter Riya on Tuesday alleged that her father has become untraceable after her uncle Devesh Shakya and grandmother took him to Lucknow.

Riya raised the alarm on a viral video while also demanding from the Uttar Pradesh government to trace her father.

However, the police said the lawmaker is safe at his home in Etawah. "The charge of kidnapping is baseless and untrue. The matter is of a family dispute. I have myself talked to the MLA on a video call. A deputy SP-level officer is also present there," Auraiya Superintendent of Police Abhishek Verma told news agency PTI.

Caste equations in UP

Pollsters and political experts are of the opinion that the recent exits from the BJP could affect the party’s chances in the upcoming polls.

Here’s why they believe so: Looking back at the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP garnered huge support from the non-Yadav OBC. However, Maurya's exit, who holds sway with that voter group, could affect the party. Moreover, OP Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party has also aligned with the SP this time.

The Print, citing a source close to Maurya reported that the claim that the government is managed by the Thakurs will get more credence. “The BJP won 2017 by getting the support of the OBCs. But with the resignation of Maurya, the myth that the BJP has been creating — that OBCs other than Yadavs are with them — has been broken today," the source added.

Those wondering about the significance of the non-Yadav OBC vote, they constitute 35 percent of the OBC population in the state and hence, considered an important group.

Shamshad Khan, psephologist and managing director of PEACS News Service is of the opinion that the non-Yadav OBC vote will decide the fate of the elections. "Whichever party gets more than 50 percent of the non-Yadav OBCs votes is likely to form the next government in UP," he was quoted as saying.

UP polls

Uttar Pradesh, what is considered to be the country's politically vital state, votes from 10 February in seven rounds in an election widely, which is being considered as a precursor to the national elections of 2024. The results will be declared on 10 March.

In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP scored a comprehensive victory in Uttar Pradesh. Winning 312 of 403 seats, the saffron party left its competitors far behind to score its biggest victory in this crucial state of the Hindi belt.

In terms of the vote share data, the BJP polled at 39.7 percent, followed by the BSP with 22.2 percent and SP 21.8 percent. Congress could get only 6.3 percent (over 54 lakh votes).

With inputs from agencies

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UP Assembly elections: BJP minister and 4 MLAs’ exit from party puts spotlight on caste equations in the state
UP Assembly elections: BJP minister and 4 MLAs’ exit from party puts spotlight on caste equations in the state
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