UP polls: BJP fields former BSP lawmaker against OP Rajbhar

Updated on Feb 12, 2022 11:27 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday named Kalicharan Rajbhar, a former Bahujan Samaj Party lawmaker who had joined the BJP in December last, as its candidate against former ally and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar from Zahoorabad assembly seat of Ghazipur district

Party announces candidates for nine seats, including Mau (For Representation)
Party announces candidates for nine seats, including Mau (For Representation)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday named Kalicharan Rajbhar, a former Bahujan Samaj Party lawmaker who had joined the BJP in December last, as its candidate against former ally and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar from Zahoorabad assembly seat of Ghazipur district.

The BJP has also named Ashok Singh as its candidate from Mau assembly seat held by Mafioso-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari who is in jail. Ashok, BJP leaders indicated, is the brother of contractor Munna Singh in whose murder Mukhtar was named as an accused and despite Mukhtar’s acquittal, BJP’s decision to field Ashok against Mukhtar would set up an interesting, emotional battle in Mau.

Kalicharan, who had won the Zahoorabad assembly seat twice on BSP ticket–first in 2002 and later in 2007—and Ashok Singh were among the nine candidates that BJP declared on Saturday. With this, the party has now declared 369 candidates, including 46 women, for the 2022 UP polls.

Mukhtar’s lawyer Daroga Singh had recently said Mukhtar would be contesting the elections from Mau on an SBSP ticket. The BJP has been regularly talking of ending “mafia culture” in the state and its senior leaders have even been naming how Mukhtar Ansari has been in jail under BJP rule among its achievements.

UP BJP vice president AK Sharma, who also hails from Mau, too has been active in the region, ensuring development activities there. To make things difficult for SBSP chief OP Rajbhar, who had also met Mukhtar Ansari in jail recently, the BJP had held back declaration on Zahoorabad seat till last in a bid to put up a strong candidate against its former ally. “Kalicharan, who stood second in Zahoorabad in 2017 when OP Rajbhar won in an alliance with BJP, will give a tough fight to SBSP chief,” a BJP leader said.

Kalicharan had in February 2021 joined the Samajwadi Party but subsequently joined the BJP in December in the presence of law minister Brajesh Pathak in Lucknow. “There are expectations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would camp in Varanasi for a couple of days ahead of the elections in March. He would further fuel the BJP campaign in the region,” the BJP leader said.

He added that the party’s top leaders would campaign in Zahoorabad against Rajbhar who has been strongly criticising the BJP while standing firm with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. Like in the case of the other SP ally Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary, the BJP had briefly wooed OP Rajbhar too. BJP vice president Daya Shankar Singh had even arranged a meeting between Rajbhar and UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev but the plan didn’t work out after which the BJP hardened the stance against its former ally.

The BSP has already named Doodhnath alias Bujharat Rajbhar as its candidate on the seat which Samajwadi Party has left for its alliance partner SBSP. The BJP leaders, however, admit that despite propping up cabinet minister Anil Rajbhar as an alternative to Om Prakash Rajbhar, the party still lacked a leader of the Rajbhar community who had as much appeal among his caste group as the SBSP chief with whom the then BJP chief Amit Shah had inked a pre-poll pact ahead of the 2017 UP polls. Subsequently, the relations between BJP and SBSP soured in 2019.

“Om Prakash has a ground connect,” the BJP leader conceded but added that in the elections when BJP’s top leaders would start campaigning in the region touting development under “double engine” BJP government, things would look up for the party in the area where Rajbhars are considered to be quite influential.

The BJP also named Arvind Jaiswal from Mubarakpur assembly segment of Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha constituency of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav who is contesting his first assembly election from Karhal seat of Mainpuri. Jaiswal had earlier contested the election on a Congress ticket.

Despite its sweep in the 2017 UP elections, the BJP could win just one of the 10 assembly segments in Azamgarh where this time Union home minister Amit Shah and chief minister Yogi Adityanath have campaigned. In Muhammadabad-Gohna (reserved) seat for scheduled caste, the party has named Poonam Saroj as its candidate.

Mihilal Gautam has been named candidate from Machhlishahr reserved seat while Ramesh Jaiswal has been named party’s candidate from Mughalsarai. Kailash Kharvar has been named from Chakia reserved seat while Anil Maurya is the candidate from Ghorawal. Sanjeev Gond has been named candidate from Obra seat that is reserved for scheduled tribes.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Manish Chandra Pandey is a Lucknow-based assistant editor with Hindustan Times’ political bureau in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Along with political reporting, he loves to write off beat/human interest stories that people connect with. Manish also covers departments. He feels he has a lot to learn not just from veterans but from the newcomers who make him realise that there is so much to unlearn

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