Struggling to keep its flock together, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may face a competition in the BJP in luring Dalits of Uttar Pradesh. Aiming to repeat its Lok Sabha performance in the 2017 assembly poll, the BJP has reached out to some key suspended or sidelined BSP leaders.
BJP’s bid to expand among Dalits comes ahead of this year panchayat elections, which the BJP will contest for the first time to penetrate in the villages.
“Communities who were not with us so far want to associate now. When leadership of such communities are getting weak, they are also looking for an alternative. We will contest panchayat election for the first time to create a leadership at the junior level,” UP BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.
A national office bearer of the BJP told HT that Rajya Sabha MP Jugal Kishore, who has been suspended by Mayawati, was in touch with them. Kishore was the coordinator of the BSP for eastern Uttar Pradesh. A former Lok Sabha MP, a senior office bearer of the BSP and a former minister too were claimed to be on their way to the BJP. They also include leaders from Mayawati’s community, which stood behind her even during the Lok Sabha poll.
Out of 8 crore plus votes polled in Uttar Pradesh during 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BSP cornered about 1.6 crore – less than its 2012 assembly figure of 1.96 crore votes.
The BJP is already on an overdrive to win over the Dalit sympathy. Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheriya — an SC leader with roots in the RSS — was first inducted as general secretary of the party and eventually promoted as a minister in the Modi government.
Similarly, when BSP chief Mayawati — a Rajya Sabha member — adopted an SC-dominated village under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna, Union home minister Rajnath Singh adopted a nearby village with a strong Dalit presence.