Shooting From The Hip

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Here is one man who does not care two hoots about who says what, so long as he successfully pushes his agenda of the Rajbhar community

For his party’s growth, he gives a damn to the ‘coalition dharma’. Om Prakash Rajbhar, the President of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and a Cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, keeps throwing tantrums to extract a maximum juice from ‘big brother’ BJP for his Rajbhar Samaj.

Despite being a coalition partner, his jibes are aimed at reaping political benefits for SBSP at the cost of the BJP. Rajbhar dares Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directly without mincing words. “My fight is directly with the Chief Minister. If he does not mend his ways, he will have to go back to head the Gorkhnath temple again,” he dares.

Soon after becoming a partner in the BJP-led coalition government, Rajbhar accused the latter of not consulting and not respecting its alliance partners on running the government and making its policies and programmes. “The BJP has lost its mental balance in the wake of brute majority people handed over to it in the UP Assembly polls,” he challenged the BJP publicly.

Rajbhar alleged that for the transfer of Ghazipur District Magistrate, he had to beg before the Chief Minister. “He was shunted only when I spoke to Amit Shah and threatened to sit on a dharna against the government,” he points out.

The relations between the two coalition parties had reached such a flashpoint that Rajbhar had threatened to pull out of the coalition, forcing the BJP President Amit Shah to intervene and call him to Delhi in March to iron out differences. Shah had also directed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to attend to the grievances of coalition partners on a priority basis.

Despite having only four members in the UP Assembly, Rajbhar creates a flutter every other day in the state’s political circles by grilling his own government. When asked why he does do so, he laughs: “It is BJP’s choice to keep the SBSP in good humour in the changing political situation. They used my party during 2017 Assembly elections, now it’s time to pay the cost,” he shrugs his shoulders.

Mayawati Maurder

After a troubled childhood, Rajbhar started his social and political career with late Kanshi Ram in 1981. He worked tirelessly to unite his community members in eastern Uttar Pradesh for the BSP. With their 18 per cent population among OBCs, Rajbhars are the most politically active non-Yadav community in Uttar Pradesh after the Lodhs.After working for the Bahujan Samaj mission for two decades, he fell out from the BSP in 2001, when Mayawati renamed Bhadohi as Sant Kabir Nagar. “Bhadohi is not only famous for carpet but is a historical place for Rajbhars as well. I pleaded with Mayawati not to change the name as it would destroy the Rajbhars’ ancestry, but she did not listen, forcing me to part ways,” recalls Rajbhar.

In 2002, he floated his own political outfit SBSP and contested Bihar Assembly elections. Though SBSP lost its deposits but it emerged as a political force with a major nuisance value with its committed voters. “He replicated Kanshi Ram’s early strategy to make any candidate lose than to win polls in order to pocket political space and growth for the BSP,” points out Rajnedra K Gautam, a senior journalist.

Since 2004, SBSP fought all general and assembly elections in UP and Bihar. The SBSP did not win any seat but election commission data during this period showed that SBSP candidates pocketed 5,000 to 50,000 votes. While making his strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP’s ‘Chanakya’, Amit Shah, tapped SBSP’s potential in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2012 Assembly polls, the BJP had lost about 30 seats in eastern UP with small margins, as it did not get non-Yadav OBC votes, whereas in all these seats SBSP candidates pocketed more than 5,000 votes. Shah had struck an alliance with the Apna Dal for 2014 with an eye on its Kurmi/Patel votes. The results for 2014 Lok Sabha polls were an eye-opener for the party. BJP not only won 71 seats but Apna Dal too pocketed two seats out of 80 seats.

After the success with Apna Dal in 2014, Shah tapped another marginal party SBSP for the 2017 Assembly polls to counter the BSP and SP. The results were for all to see. While BJP won 312 out of 403 seats, Apna Dal and SBSP contested eight to win four assembly seats for the first time in its 16 years of history.

Poll Math

“The BJP’s decision to strike pre-poll alliances with the Apna Dal and the SBSP paid rich dividend to its electoral fortune. The party swept polls with help of the committed votes of the two alliance partners and succeeded in restricting the SP and the BSP to their all time low in Uttar Pradesh,” points Govind Pant Raju, a senior scribe.

Tasting power for the first time, Om Prakash Rajbhar seems to be using the opportunity to follow what all other regional forces did in the past to create a political space for themselves by riding piggyback on their bigger partners. Both SP and the BSP grew in Uttar Pradesh at the cost of the Congress and the BJP.

“I have no intention of snapping ties with the BJP till 2024 but, at the same time, my priority is to make the SBSP a political force to reckon with by BJP and others,” candidly admits Rajbhar.

Dumping BJP

With BSP and SP coming together and exploring the possibility to forge a non-BJP front with the Congress and the RLD for 2019 Lok Sabha polls to checkmate BJP in the most crucial state, Rajbhar knows his stakes are high to play on the front foot. “The SBSP has nothing to lose but to gain in the changing political situation. Chances are that we get a representation in the Lok Sabha too,” he confides.

Whenever the BJP’s plays its masterstroke of quota within quota to fix reservations for the most backward Dalits and MBCs, the SBSP will be the major gainer not only in terms of consolidating its Rajbhar vote-bank further but take the credit to rope in more MBC castes into the party fold to strengthen SBSP.

Rajbhars were among the 17 most backward castes who were proposed to be included into the SC category by erstwhile Akhilesh regime but it was rejected by the High Court.

Now the Yogi Adityanath government is working overnight to fix separate quota for most backward Dalits and MBCs on the basis of their social and economic status to script a new social engineering chapter in state’s political strict. BJP feels that it will be a game changer to counter the non-BJP front against the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Unlike Apna Dal, Om Prakash Rajbhar’s SBSP is more vocal. “They have got their dues. It is now our turn. We will keep the BJP and the government on tenterhooks till Rajbhar Samaj and other most backwards castes get their dues,” says Arwind Rajbhar, his son and SBSP General Secretary.

Now Rajbhar’s SBSP has launched a statewide anti-liquor stir, demanding Bihar-like prohibition in Uttar Pradesh even after the BJP government rejecting its demand. The SBSP held a massive rally of women in Balia on May 20 to begin the agitation.

Liquor Politics

“You see, liquor remains the biggest social evil among poor and backward classes. Prohibition will improve their social and economic status to help them join the mainstream of the society. We are also asking members of most backward community to send their children to schools, as education is the only tool to achieve growth,” says Arwind Rajbhar.

Like Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Rajbhar is using the prohibition issue to unite most backward women and youth in Uttar Pradesh to strengthen SBSP’s support base ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “Our aim is to raise our voice and issue in the Parliament and get our share in the Union Cabinet,” says Om Prakash Rajbhar.

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