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BJP ally threatens to boycott PM Ghazipur rally

At the Ghazipur rally, Modi would release a postage stamp in memory of Suheldev Rajbhar, a warrior king who is believed to have defeated a Muslim invader in Bahraich and who SBSP leaders say is the biggest icon of Rajbhars.

lucknow Updated: Dec 14, 2018 10:31 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
PM Rally,Ghazipur rally of PM,MOdi rally
SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar addresses a gathering in Lakhimpur Kheri on Thursday(HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s December 29 rally in Ghazipur has angered BJP’s UP ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) which has tasked its cadres to urge Rajbhars, the OBC subcaste which SBSP caters to, to keep away from the Modi rally.

The BJP on the other hand has asked its cadre to galvanise Rajbhars from across 14 districts around Ghazipur that shares its boundary with Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

Ghazipur, the Lok Sabha constituency of union minister Manoj Sinha, also comprises Zahoorabad assembly segment from where SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar won the 2017 UP polls in arrangement with the BJP.

The Modi rally here has angered Rajbhar who sees it as a BJP ploy to eat up SBSP’s mainstay Rajbhar vote.

“Yes, we are going around telling Rajbhars to keep away from the rally. The BJP should have consulted us before arranging a leader of their tallest leader in our area,” confirmed Shashi Pratap Singh, the SBSP general secretary.

What’s more, Om Prakash Rajbhar on Thursday even said in Lakhimpur Kheri that if required he would campaign against the BJP by hiring a helicopter if his demand for quota within quota to help most backwards, most dalits wasn’t kept, indicating the tenuous relationship between the two parties that has steadily worsened after the UP elections.

In fact, after the BJP lost assembly elections in 5 states, the SBSP was the first to state that the loss was due to “BJP’s arrogance.”

What has irked the SBSP more is that the BJP has tasked minister of state Anil Rajbhar to coordinate the Ghazipur rally, making the party’s desire to create its own homegrown Rajbhar leadership apparent.

“Let them try. For Rajbhars, only Om Prakash Rajbhar is their leader,” said Shashi Pratap Singh.

Though Rajbhars are just about 3 per cent of UP’s electorate, it’s their tactical spread across over 100 assembly segments, and about a dozen Lok Sabha seats, mostly in eastern UP, that had resulted in BJP chief Amit Shah stitching a pre-poll arrangement with SBSP in 2017 UP elections.

At the Ghazipur rally, Modi would release a postage stamp in memory of Suheldev Rajbhar, a warrior king who is believed to have defeated a Muslim invader in Bahraich and who SBSP leaders say is the biggest icon of Rajbhars.

By releasing a stamp in memory of Suheldev, Modi would honor a long standing community demand. But SBSP leaders, angry at what they perceive as BJP’s attempts to weaken them, are now saying more than postage stamp, the community needs education, food and jobs.

“The stamp is ok but will it benefit the community’s needs? And as for tokenism, ever since BJP government was we have been pushing for proper upkeep of the spot in Varanasi where the biggest statue of Maharaja Suheldev is installed. But, none listened. We didn’t join this government to cheat our community,” Singh said.

So is this all posturing or is the SBSP joining the proposed grand alliance against BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls? “We won’t quit or leave them. But if forced, who knows what might happen,” said Singh.

The BJP reacted cautiously. “PM Modi is the leader of NDA and we appeal to all to follow the coalition dharma,” said BJP leader Chandra Mohan.

First Published: Dec 14, 2018 10:31 IST