NDA allies field BJP leaders to counter SP caste coalition

Strategy aimed at leveraging satraps’ Nishad, Kurmi support bases

Updated - September 27, 2023 11:43 am IST

Published - February 01, 2022 07:42 am IST - LUCKNOW

BJP National President J.P. Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah, U.P. BJP election in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, co-incharge Anurag Thakur, U.P. CM Yogi Adityanath, U.P. Dy CM's Keshav Prasad Maurya, Dinesh Sharma, U.P. BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh with alliance parties leaders Sanjay Kumar Nishad and Anupriya Patel, at BJP HQ in New Delhi.

BJP National President J.P. Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah, U.P. BJP election in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, co-incharge Anurag Thakur, U.P. CM Yogi Adityanath, U.P. Dy CM's Keshav Prasad Maurya, Dinesh Sharma, U.P. BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh with alliance parties leaders Sanjay Kumar Nishad and Anupriya Patel, at BJP HQ in New Delhi.

New entrants from the Opposition parties as well as leaders associated with the BJP are being fielded by it on the symbol of its two OBC-based allies — the Nishad Party and Apna Dal (Sonelal) — as the saffron party crafts a strategy to capitalize on their Nishad and Kurmi support bases to counter the Samajwadi Party-led alliance’s caste mobilization.

Of the four candidates declared so far by the Nishad Party, three are associated with the BJP while one had recently joined the saffron party. The BJP had lost three out of these four seats in 2017.

In Katehari in Ambedkar Nagar, the Nishad Party has fielded Awadesh Dwivedi, who as a BJP candidate had stood second in the last election. Mr. Dwivedi is a former district vice-president of the BJP. In Tamkuhiraj in Kushinagar, the Nishad Party’s candidate is Asim Kumar. Mr. Kumar, a doctor, said he has been the local convenor of the BJP’s Chiktisa Prakosth (medical cell) since 2014. “I am a BJP worker,” he said.

In Azamgarh’s Atrauliya seat, the Nishad Party has fielded Prashant Kumar Singh. An architect, Mr. Singh was not a formal member of the BJP but according to his family members he was active in the BJP with his uncle, a former BJP district president.

In Kalpi (Jalaun), the Nishad Party’s candidate is former BSP MLA Chhote Singh. In 2017, Mr. Singh was runner-up on the seat and had joined the BJP in October last year. The BJP dropped its sitting MLA on this seat.

Former MLA Rashmi Arya, who shifted to the BJP earlier in January, has been fielded by the Apna Dal (S) from Mauranipur in Jhansi. She had stood second on an SP symbol in 2017.

In 2017,Katehari was won by Lalji Verma of the BSP, who is now contesting on a SP symbol. Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu is the sitting MLA from Tamkuhiraj in Kushinagar while Atrauliya is held by the SP’s Sangram Yadav, who won by a thin margin in the last election against a Nishad candidate of the BJP. Atrauliya has a substantial population of the riverine Nishad communities and contesting on the symbol of the Nishad Party helps the BJP-alliance mobilize voters of these communities.

The Apna Dal (S) headed by Union Minister Anupriya Patel has alsofielded Haider Ali Khan, a member of the erstwhile Rampur royalty from Suar seat in Rohilkhand in north-west U.P. against Abdullah Azam, the son of senior SP leader Azam Khan.

The Apna Dal (S) claims influence among the Kurmi OBC community, traditionally associated with farming. It has also declared candidates in Ghatampur in Kanpur and Kaimganj in Farukkhabad in central U.P. In Ghatampur, the Apna Dal has fielded Saroj Kureel who had secured a second spot as a BSP candidate in 2017. In Kaimganj, the Apna Dal has declared Surabhi as its candidate. Ms. Surabhi was the SP’s candidate in 2017.

SP MLA Subash Pasi from Saidpur in Ghazipur, who had recently joined the BJP, was also inducted into the Nishad Party and is likely to be fielded by the party. Former BSP and SP MLA from Sirathu in Kaushambi, Vachapati, has also switched to the BJP ally Apna Dal.

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