Natural alliance of Ram Raj and Nishadraj, says Nishad Party’s Sanjay Nishad

On March 29, Sanjay Nishad walked out of SP-BSP alliance accusing it of not following coalition dharma.

Updated - September 26, 2023 01:12 pm IST

Published - April 04, 2019 05:14 pm IST - LUCKNOW

BJP leader and Union Minister J.P. Nadda greets Nishad Party leader and Gorakhpur (UP) MP Praveen Nishad, in New Delhi on April 4, 2019.

BJP leader and Union Minister J.P. Nadda greets Nishad Party leader and Gorakhpur (UP) MP Praveen Nishad, in New Delhi on April 4, 2019.

In a fillip to the caste arithmetic of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the Nishad Party joined the NDA on Thursday less than a week after it walked out of the SP-BSP alliance.

Gorakhpur MP Pravin Nishad, who won the seat in a by-poll on a SP ticket in 2018 with the support of the BSP, was also inducted into the BJP. He is the son of Sanjay Nishad, the founder and president of the Nishad Party.

Annoucing the tie-up between the BJP and the Nishad Party in Delhi, Mr. Sanjay Nishad said it was a “natural alliance of Ram Raj and Nishadraj.”

A caste icon and mythological ancestor of the Nishads, an OBC riverine community, Nishadraj is believed by Hindus to be the boatman who helped Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman cross the Ganga during exile.

Mr. Sanjay Nishad said he was aligning with the BJP to solve the problems of those “exploited and deprived” people who have not got their due even after 70 years of independence.

Mr. Sanjay Nishad also said he hoped respect would be provided to all people as part of the “ Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas agenda” of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he wanted to make PM again.

That Mr. Sanjay Nishad now espoused the BJP’s Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas mantra marks a dramatic shift in his political tone as barely 10 days ago he had resolved to mobilize the “85%” (OBC, Dalits and Muslims) against the BJP and had supported the SP and BSP to avoid division of the “85%” votes.

Just three days after he extended support to the anti-BJP alliance, Mr. Sanjay Nishad on March 29 walked out if it, accusing the SP and BSP of not following coalition dharma and ignoring the Nishad Party in official campaign material and banners. The Nishad Party also said it was unhappy over the SP’s non-committal attitude over seat arrangement.

The exit of the Nishad Party alters the caste balance in Purvanchal and parts of central UP, where the BJP already enjoys support of the Kurmi-based Apna Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party of Om Prakash Rajbhar. While Kurmis are a dominant agrarian OBC caste, Rajbhars and Nishads are categorised among the most backward castes.

Stung by the exit of the Nishad Party, the SP on Saturday responded by replacing Pravin Nishad with another Nishad candidate from Gorakhpur--former minister Ram Bhual Nishad, who contesting on a BSP symbol had stood third against Yogi Adityanath in 2014 with 1.76 lakh votes.

A riverine OBC community, Nishads along with their connected sub-castes Mallah, Kewat, Bind, Kashyap and others are an important segment of the non-Yadav backward vote. Not only are they critical in the Gorakhpur constituency, they shift the balance on several other seats in Purvanchal.

Among their political icons are bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi and former BSP minister Jamuna Nishad, whose wife Rajmati Nishad, former MLA and runner-up in Gorakhpur in 2014, and son Amarendra joined the BJP in March.

Ever since emerging into the scene before the 2017 UP state assembly polls, the Nishad Party has projected itself as the voice of the riverine OBC castes. In the 2017 Assembly election, the Nishad Party had managed to secure over 5.40 lakh votes in the 72 seats it contested, mostly in east UP, but failed to open its score.

There is no announcement yet if Pravin Nishad will contest polls on a BJP ticket and from which seat.

BJP parliamentary board secretary J.P. Nadda, who inducted the Nishad Party into the NDA, said its support would have a big impact in east and central UP. All obstacles and “caste equations” will be breached, he said, adding that there was a “tsunami” brewing in favour of Mr. Modi in UP.

Reacting to the Nishad Party’s tie-up with the BJP and Pravin Nishad’s entry, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said it was a “ ghate ka sauda ” (loss-making deal) for the BJP.

The people of Gorakhpur did not vote to ensure the victory of the MP alone but of the mahagathbandhan that was behind him, said Mr. Yadav on Twitter, predicting that the Nishad Party boat was due to sink in the election.

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