Former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) heavyweights Swami Prasad Maurya and RK Chaudhary figured prominently on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s third list of 67 candidates for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election. The list was declared on Tuesday but left a majority of the remaining 32 undeclared seats for smaller parties that have a say among OBC voters, especially in eastern UP. With this, the BJP has now named candidates for 371 out of 403 seats in UP.
Like the two lists before, the third list too includes several turncoats. Maurya has been fielded from Padrauna in Kushinagar. Another prominent BSP rebel Rajesh Tripathi has been given the ticket for the Chillupar seat in Gorakhpur.
The BJP roped in Bahujan Samaj Swabhimaan Sangharsh Samiti founder RK Chaudhary, a Dalit from the Pasi caste, the second largest Scheduled Caste group in UP after Jatavs.
Despite opposition from cadre, the BJP has left the Mohanlalganj seat for RK Chaudhary.
The BJP got its UP in-charge Om Mathur to reach out to Chaudhary after he exited the BSP for the second time months before UP polls.
Chaudhary, who had invited Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to his Lucknow rally soon after he left the BSP, has demanded six seats from the BJP.
The party can also leave more seats for the associates of Chaudhary, who has been assured of at least one seat other than his own, Bachrawan, in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency.
Even before the formal announcement, Chaudhary started campaigning in Mohanlalganj, the seat he had won in 2007 on the Rashtriya Swabhiman Party ticket. He floated the party after walking out of the BSP for the first time in 2001.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) rebel Dara Singh Chauhan, who was made the BJP’s OBC Morcha chief, has been made the party candidate from Madhuban.
Amid speculation that the BJP will leave Ramnagar in Barabanki for SP leader Beni Prasad Verma’s son Rakesh Verma, the party fielded its district unit chief Sharad Awasthi for the seat.
Old party hands like former UP BJP president Surya Pratap Shahi (Pathardeva) and former state unit chief Om Prakash Singh’s son Anurag (Chunar) also figure on the list.
The party has also declared its candidates for a majority of assembly seats in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. It has replaced its seven-time sitting MLA Shyamdeo Rai Chaudhary from Varanasi (South) with newcomer Neelkanth Tiwari.
Barring a few seats for which it could declare candidates on its symbol, the party may leave a majority of the remaining 32 seats for its pre-poll partners like the Kurmi-dominated Apna Dal and the Rajbhar-packed Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).
Besides being a Dalit, Chaudhary’s USP is the fact that he has been among the BSP’s founder members. Chaudhary’s name has figured on the BJP list making some wonder if the BSP rebel has formally joined the party.
BJP chief Amit Shah had announced tie-ups with Apna Dal and SBSP. Though formal seat sharing hasn’t been revealed, it is expected that the party might leave out at least 10 seats for Apna Dal (Anupriyal Patel faction), eight seats for Bharatiya Samaj Party (BSP) and two seats for Chaudhary.
Shah had suggested that SBSP chief Suheldev Rajbhar could consider contesting from Mau against sitting lawmaker and gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari. The SBSP chief said he was ready to take up the offer.
At one time, the SBSP had partnered with Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) that has now merged with the Samajwadi Party. “Since beginning, the party has focused more on east UP where BJP’s performance hasn’t been good for the last couple of elections,” a party leader said.