The anti-BJP alliance in Uttar Pradesh led by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party received a setback after a key OBC partner, the Nishad Party, ditched them allegedly for not following “alliance dharma” and within hours moved towards stitching a deal with the BJP.
The changing equations hold significance as it was the Nishad Party’s Pravin Nishad who snatched the prestigious Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP’s grip in a byelection last year on a SP symbol with the support of the BSP.
Pravin Nishad, also an engineer, is the son of Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad.
Miffed at slight
Announcing the break-up on Friday evening, Mr. Sanjay Nishad said party workers and core committee were upset that the Nishad Party did not find any mention in the posters, banners or letters issued by the alliance in its campaign.
Mr. Sanjay Nishad also said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav did not declare the seats to be allotted to the party at the press conference on March 26 despite promises.
“We are not part of the alliance any more. We are free. We can independently contest the election or search for a new alternative,” the Nishad leader said.
Mr. Sanjay Nishad had said he came together with Mr. Yadav to ensure there was no division of the “85% vote”, a reference to the Dalits, OBCs and Muslims, and claimed the “historic win in Gorakhpur” would be repeated in other seats as well in 2019.
However, soon after announcing his separation with the SP, Mr. Nishad met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath along with UP Minister Siddharth Nath Singh.
On the split, Mr. Adityanath said “incompatible alliances don’t succeed”, and alluded to the mixing of oil and water.
The SP responded to the exit by announcing a heavyweight Nishad — former Minister Ram Bhual Nishad, as its Gorakhpur candidate.
Fighting on the BSP symbol, Mr. Ram Bhual stood third in Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014. The SP also announced another Nishad — former MLA from Unnao Ram Kumar Nishad — for the Kanpur seat.
A riverine OBC community, Nishads, along with their connected sub-castes Mallah, Kewat, Bind, Kashyap and others are an important non-Yadav backward vote segment.
They are critical in the Gorakhpur constituency, and shift the balance in several seats in Purvanchal.
Projecting itself as the voice of the riverine OBC castes, the Nishad Party had managed to secure over 5.4 lakh votes in the 72 seats it contested, mostly in east U.P., but failed to win a seat in the 2017 Assembly election.
Accusing the Nishad Party of being sold out to the BJP for ₹50 crore, Mr. Ram Bhual labelled its leadership as saudagar, or merchants, and that its departure would not have any impact on the SP’s prospects among the community.
Mr. Sanjay Nishad reportedly left for Delhi to meet BJP chief Amit Shah. Outside the airport, he said his party would align with whoever supported its “social issue” of reservation and their representation and would fight the election on its own symbol.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary quoted Mr. Akhilesh Yadav as saying that the BJP was carrying out different types of conspiracies through “blackmail and inducement”.
Nishad Party exits, big blow to SP-BSP – The Hindu