Wooed by BJP & SP, UP’s small parties look to big bargains for 2024

In Uttar Pradesh, small parties are making big bargains ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. — IANS

Amita Verma

Lucknow, July 22 (IANS) In Uttar Pradesh, small parties are making big bargains ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The two major political parties — the ruling BJP and Samajwadi Party — are going out of their way to win over these parties that are mostly caste-specific and have limited area of influence.

Political experts feel that the bigger parties are invariably gripped by a sense of insecurity that makes them sew up alliance — some of which may not bring any benefit.

An example of this is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh that has a strong presence, but is still looking to further consolidate its position by wooing smaller parties.

The BJP has the Apna Dal (S) and Nishad Party as its allies, but wants to win over other parties. The BJP has already brought back the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaja Party (SBSP) into its fold.

The Samajwadi Party, meanwhile, is said to be trying to bring back estranged allies like the Mahan Dal and Janwadi Party. The SP already has the rival Apna Dal faction, led by Krishna Patel, as an ally.

Its biggest ally is the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) that wields influence in western UP.

The small parties draw their strength from the fact that they represent various caste and sub-caste groups. The bigger parties feel that by bringing these parties into their fold, they will earn their caste votes.

The Apna Dal, for instance is a Kurmi-based party that has made inroads into the Kurmi community which happens to be the second largest caste block in the OBC category.

While the Apna Dal founder Sonelal Patel could never win an election himself, his daughter Anupriya Patel, now a Union minister, has led the party to greater success.

The Apna Dal contested two seats and won both in 2014 and then repeated the feat in 2019. It now has 12 members in the UP Assembly.

Under the leadership of Anupriya Patel, the party has built up a strong organisation in almost every district and has earned the reputation of being a no-hassle ally.

The BJP has benefited from Kurmi votes because of Apna Dal.

The Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), led by Om Prakash Rajbhar — a former auto driver and then a sub-inspector — meanwhile, is a Rajbhar-centric party that claims influence on seats like Ghosi, Ghazipur, Lalganj, Ballia, Jaunpur, Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar.

The SBSP was a BJP ally in 2017 assembly polls but parted ways on a bitter note in 2019, only to return to the saffron fold a week ago.

The BJP feels that Rajbhar voters can give the alliance an upper hand but Om Prakash Rajbhar’s son Arvind Rajbhar had been defeated by BJP’s Anil Rajbhar in the last assembly elections — giving rise to debates about who is a more acceptable Rajbhar.

However, the BJP will need to handle over-demanding Rajbhar as an ally.

The Nishad party which draws its strength from the fishermen community, is also a BJP ally in Uttar Pradesh.

Its president Sanjay Nishad is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government and his son Parveen Nishad is a MP while his younger son Sarvan Nishad is an MLA.

Sanjay Nishad has not won an election himself but claims that he wields influence on 27 Lok Sabha seats in UP.

The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, is in alliance with RLD which banks on support from Jats in western UP.

The RLD has given a push to the Samajwadi Party which was facing rough weather in western UP after the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.

However, the alliance is now facing turbulence because RLD wants to join hands with the Congress for the 2024 polls but SP is not enthused by the idea.

Though both parties deny it, speculations are rife that RLD may ultimately opt for an alliance with the Congress if the SP does not relent.

“If you want to fight the BJP at the national level, you cannot ignore the Congress which does have a presence outside UP,” said a senior RLD leader.

There are even more smaller parties that have not proved their electoral presence in the state but are being sought after by bigger parties.

The Mahan Dal, which had contested the 2022 Assembly polls in alliance with the SP, has now announced unconditional support to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). It has also started its campaign in the Farrukhabad, Kasganj, Shahjahanpur, and Badaun areas, plastering walls with posters that say: “Mahan Dal ne thana hai BSP ko jitana hai (Mahan Dal is determined to make BSP win).”

Mahan Dal chief Keshav Dev Maurya said,  “SP president Akhilesh Yadav ignored me in the alliance. I walked out of the alliance after the Assembly elections. As I am committed to defeat the BJP, our party has decided to support BSP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. My vote bank of Shakya, Saini, Kushwaha and Maurya communities had been supporting BSP till 2007.”

The Janwadi Socialist Party and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) were both part of an alliance the SP had forged in 2022.

 Both parties failed to win any seats in the 2022 UP polls.

The former draws strength from the Bind and Kashyap communities that have sizeable numbers in over a dozen districts of eastern UP.

The Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) is a splinter group of the Apna Dal founded by Kurmi leader Sonelal Patel. It is led by Krishna Patel, widow of Dr Sonelal Patel.

Patel’s daughter Pallavi Patel contested the 2022 election on an SP ticket and won in Surathu, defeating Keshav Prasad Maurya with a margin of 7,000 votes.

This faction, however, is nowhere near the Apna Dal, led by Anupriya Patel.

Among the other smaller parties is also the All India Majlis-e-ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The Asaduddin Owaisi-led party based out of Hyderabad had lost all 95 Assembly seats it contested in the 2022 UP polls.

However, it managed to get 4.5 lakh votes and caused a dent in the larger SP alliance in many seats.

In the recent urban local body elections, the AIMIM made its presence felt by winning three seats of chairperson in Nagar Palika Parishad and two in the Nagar Panchayat. The party has also won 19 municipal corporator seats. The AIMIM has not spelt out its plan for the 2024 elections so far.

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