Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has seen an exodus of some of its prominent MLAs and ministers in Uttar Pradesh in the last few days. One such face is Dara Singh Chauhan who resigned from the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet on January 12, 2022. He is the second Cabinet minister from the Other Backward Caste (OBC) to quit the party in the runup to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election 2022 after Swami Prasad Maurya.
Chauhan quit the Yogi Cabinet in a series of exits started with Maurya’s sudden resignation on January 11, 2022.
The twin exits are seen as a huge blow to the BJP as it seeks re-election in India’s politically most important state. Two ministers and four MLAs have quit the party since the Election Commission of India announced the poll dates on January 8.
Using almost the same language as Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh in his resignation letter wrote, “I worked with dedication but I am resigning as I am hurt by this government’s oppressive attitude towards the backward, deprived sections, Dalits, farmers and unemployed youth and the neglect of quota for the backward and Dalits.”
Uttar Pradesh Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya was quick to respond and tweeted urging Chauhan to reconsider his resignation.
“If any family member strays, it is very sad. I can only appeal to the respected leaders who are going, please don’t get on a sinking ship or it will be their loss. Big brother Dara Singh, please reconsider your decision,” Keshav Prasad Maurya wrote.
Keshav Prasad Maurya, himself a prominent BJP OBC leader, had made a similar appeal to Swami Prasad Maurya when the latter jumped ship blaming the state government for “gross neglect” of Dalits, the backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders.
In his resignation letter to Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Maurya said, “I discharged my responsibilities as the minister for labour, employment, and coordination in the council of ministers headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, despite adverse circumstances and ideology.”
“Due to the attitude of gross neglect towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small and medium-sized traders, I am resigning from the Yogi ministry of Uttar Pradesh,” he tweeted in Hindi.
BJP’s OBC leadership seems to be in deep crisis before the crucial election in a state where the backward caste votes are extremely crucial.
Chauhan had joined the BJP in 2015 after quitting Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. He was made BJP OBC unit’s national president in a clear signal of his clout.
Chauhan has been a BSP MP from 2009 to 2014 from Ghosi in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was also a Rajya Sabha MP from 1996 to 2006.
Earlier, in a tactical shift, Maurya resigned from the state Cabinet. Three other BJP MLAs also quit the party and there are reports of many others following suit in the next few days.
The series of desertions jolted the BJP top leadership as caste equations in the politically volatile state is an integral part of any calculation.
Maurya is widely considered a politician well connected with the grassroot.
Samajwadi Party has welcomed him with an open arm and will be eager to project it as a big win.
Three more leaders – Tindwari MLA Brajesh Prajapati, Tilhar’s Roshan Lal Verma and Bilhaur’s Bhagwati Sagar also announced they were quitting the BJP in Maurya’s support.
This spate of resignations happened when an important meeting of the BJP top brass to decide candidates for Uttar Pradesh assembly polls was taking place in Delhi.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and state party chief Swatantra Dev Singh were deliberating on the candidates along with party president JP Nadda, who joined virtually due to Covid, when the MLAs started to send in their resignation letters.
Swami Prasad Maurya’s Clout
Swami Prasad Maurya, a five-time MLA from Padrauna in eastern UP had switched over to the BJP from BSP before the 2017 assembly polls. His daughter Sanghmitra Maurya is a BJP MP from Badaun.
His quitting BJP could damage the party’s prospects in almost all 20 assembly seats across Kushinagar, Pratapgarh, Kanpur Dehat, Banda and Shahjahanpur, observers say.
The SP tweeted a photograph of Swami Prasad Maurya and MLA Roshan Lal Varma with party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
“Welcome to the Samajwadi Party. There will be a social justice revolution. There will be a change in 2022,” it said.
But Maurya is yet to declare his next move. “I am a political person and I will be talking to one political party or the other. With whom I talk, that will be done after consulting supporters,” he told reporters. His daughter Sanghamitra Maurya told PTI that her father has definitely resigned but has not joined the SP or any other outfit yet.
Asked about the SP tweet – a similar one by Akhilesh Yadav — she said even in 2016 when her father left the BSP, Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav had posted a photo with him on social media.
Maurya maintained that he had raised issues that concerned him earlier with the party. “I always spoke at the relevant forum, be it the government or the party leadership. I was heard but it led to nothing.”
Verma, the BJP Tilhar MLA, declared his allegiance to Maurya. “I have resigned from the BJP and will be with Swami Prasad Maurya. When we used to raise the grievances of the people, we were not heard.”
“We had complained to the chief minister and also to Swatantra Dev Singh. But nothing happened. I will be joining the SP in the next couple of days,” he told PTI.
He said unemployment has increased and the backward castes are being ignored. “We flagged their issues, but no one heard us. A handful of officials run this government,” he said, accusing minister Suresh Khanna of placing hurdles in development projects in Shahjahanpur.
Bilhaur MLA Bhagwati Sagar too said he is with Maurya. “We will decide our future course of action and go wherever our grievances are redressed and we get justice,” he said.
When asked about the timing of his decision, the MLA said, “We were struggling for the past over four years. It is not a matter of getting party tickets for contesting the polls. The decision is taken in the interest of our community.”
Tindwari MLA Prajapati has sent a letter to the state party president informing him that he is quitting the BJP.
All these resignations are being seen as a revolt against Yogi Adityanath.
Many MLAs from the OBC bloc had been complaining to the top leadership about Yogi Adityanath’s working style and what they called was the Chief Minister’s arrogance.
While BJP has a robust and well-oiled election machinery with a proven high degree of efficiency in booth management, the spate of resignations from the party by OBC leaders will force its top brass to rework their strategy.
The mainstay of BJP’s poll strategy is to use ‘Hindutava & Development’ as the main plank and combine caste engineering to command a major vote share across the state.
Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav also understands the importance of forming a large social alliance. SP will be emulating BJP’s effort to garner support from all non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit votes apart from its conventional Muslim-Yadav alliance.
With Input From PTI