UP polls: As SP Maurya quits, BJP must now strike balance between own cadre and imported faces

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: The exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, sitting BJP MLA and cabinet minister in the Yogi government, just before the upcoming assembly elections is a lesson for the ruling BJP. 

It is not that only Maurya, who announced on Wednesday that he would be joining the Samajwadi Party on January 14– — would leave the saffron bandwagon, three sitting BJP MLAs close to him, have already tendered their resignations from the primary membership of the BJP and a few more are likely to follow the suit.

Maurya has been a significant OBC (other backward classes) leader across multiple political formations for almost four decades. There are 50% OBC voters in UP. Yadavs are around 9% of those and have traditionally supported the Samajwadi Party. Parties continue to fight over the 32-35% of non-Yadav OBC votes.

BJP, which has already got into action mode for damage control, is trying to explain the exit of Maurya as a step taken under the fear of denial of tickets or even the change of constituency. “However, whatever be the reason for Maurya’s exit, it has left behind a lesson for the BJP of not trusting the turncoats blindly at the cost of its original cadre,” says political commentator JP Shukla.

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The political experts also believe that the series of events that have taken place since Tuesday has wielded a jolt to the confidence of the ruling party leaders. “Overconfidence at the time of elections sometimes proves to be fatal,” says Prof AK Mishra, a prominent political scientist.

This move of Maurya, who is known to be a habitual party hopper, however, poses a challenge to the BJP to strike a proper balance between its own cader and the big faces imported from other parties especially at the time of elections, feels Prof Mishra.

The political experts are of the opinion that the ruling party will also be facing the challenge of keeping its own cadre content while accommodating the sulking fence-sitters. If the sources are to be believed many more leaders, who had joined the BJP ahead of 2017 assembly polls and got the plum portfolios for five years, may now switch sides. The names of Dara Singh Chauhan and Dharam Singh Saini, both ministers in Yogi cabinet, had been doing the rounds. While Chauhan has already tendered his resignation, Saini’s next move is expected.

However, Saini has denied any such plan swearing their loyalty to the ruling party for now.

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“BJP needs to resolve some of the issues otherwise the trust overdose on turncoats would dent its popularity and prestige,” says Prof SK Dwivedi. He adds that the jolt given by Swami Prasad Maurya establishes the fact that even BJP is responsible for it. “In the name of doing ideological politics, the BJP has propagated the politics of convenience by inducting countless turncoats and obliging them with plum portfolios. However, the party has failed to inculcate its values and culture in the turncoats. It is paying for it today,” says Prof Dwivedi.

So far as Maurya is concerned, he was a prominent OBC leader when he was in the Bahujan Samaj Party. When BSP’s popularity started fading in 2016, Maurya hopped on to the saffron bandwagon which was on the surge.

“His dual standards could be gauged from the fact that after holding a cabinet ministerial post in the Yogi government for five years he realized that he was having ideological differences with the BJP at the end of the tenure,” says JP Shukla. Moreover, he is not going to compromise his daughter Sanghmitra’s future as she has left with at least two years of her tenure as BJP MP from Badaun, adds Shukla. After her father’s exit, Sanghmitra is swearing her loyalty to the BJP.

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The emergence of Keshav Prasad Maurya as an OBC leader overshadowed Swami’s clout in the BJP. Despite being an OBC leader, he failed to ensure victory for his son, Utkrisht Maurya, from Unchahaar despite the BJP wave in the 2017 assembly elections. The sources claim that the non-assurance of a ticket to his son was one of the reasons for Maurya to quit the BJP.

Despite having enjoyed the confidence of BSP chief Mayawati and three ministerial stints in her regimes, Maurya left BSP in 2016 accusing it of auctioning the tickets. However, later Mayawati claimed that Maurya left the party as she denied tickets to his son and daughter.

In the 2012 Assembly polls, Maurya’s son Utkrist lost from the Unchahar Assembly seat of Rae Bareli while Sanghmitra lost from Aliganj in the Etah constituency.

Maurya later joined the BJP, just before the 2017 polls, claiming that he was impressed with the work done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “weaker sections” of the society.