The Bharatiya Janata Party has mixed feelings over the feud in the Samajwadi Party.
It sees an opportunity to wean the backwards, particularly the non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBC), away from a ‘weakened’ SP, but remains concerned about the political fallout of Muslims shifting allegiance to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The backwards, with Yadavs being the most prominent, constitute about 40% of the state’s population.
A sizeable chunk of them voted for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, but the party remains apprehensive about their voting pattern in the assembly polls.
“Now, a majority of extremely backward communities will vote for us,” BJP general secretary Arun Singh said.
“BJP will be their preferred choice if they leave the SP,” he added.
If that happens, it will be a shot in the arm for the BJP that is staring at a slide in fortune after polling 43% votes in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha election, which helped it win 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
The party has tried to woo OBCs by appointing Keshav Prasad Maurya as its state unit chief.
BSP stalwart Swami Prasad Maurya, former leader of Opposition in the state assembly, also joined the BJP in August. Mauryas and other allied castes — traditionally involved in growing vegetables — account for nearly 4 % of Uttar Pradesh’s population.
BJP strategists also suspect that Brand Akhilesh may have emerged stronger from the crisis, irrespective of whether the party splits or remains united, at least till the polls.
The party’s strategy so far has been to divide the BSP’s Dalit and SP’s OBC vote bank.
But they are unsure of where the Muslim vote will go if the SP is viewed as ‘weak’ in stopping the BJP.
The minority community, about 18% of the state’s population, has remained faithful to the SP and is now being lured by the BSP.
Probably it’s with this strategy that BJP chief Amit Shah had publicly said it would be ‘SP vs BJP’ in the state.