Other States

BJP seals alliance with Nishad Party

Union Minister and BJP's U P election incharge Dharmendra Pradhan being welcomed by UP BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh (L) and Nishad Party President Sanjai Nishad (R) before a press conference, in Lucknow, on September 24, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The BJP on Friday formally announced it would contest 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in alliance with the Nishad Party.

In another political development in the State, senior OBC MLAs from the Rajbhar and Kurmi castes Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar, who were recently expelled from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), met Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav here. Talks are the two could formally join the SP soon.

Ahead of coming polls, both the BJP and the SP are trying to consolidate their support among the numerically significant non-Yadav OBCs.

BJP’s in charge for elections Dharmendra Pradhan announced that the party would contest the polls along with Sanjay Nishad’s Nishad Party along with the Apna Dal of Anupriya Patel. “In 2022, we will contest together with full force,” he said at a press conference.

Though Mr. Nishad was present at the press meet, sitting next to Mr. Pradhan, he did not speak. He had indicated that he wanted to field candidates on his party’s symbol rather than the BJP. His son Praveen Nishad contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Sant Kabir Nagar on a BJP ticket. The Apna Dal, on the other hand, has two MPs, nine MLAs and one MLC, causing the Nishad Party chief to feel disgruntled.

The BJP and the Nishad Party have not made public any seat-sharing arrangement as of yet. In 2017, the BJP left 20 out of the 403 seats for its two allies.

BJP State president Swatantra Dev Singh said the BJP and the Nishad Party would contest next year polls “with full force under the leadership of Yogiji [Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath] and Modiji [Prime Minister Narendra Modi].”

Courtesy meeting: Akhilesh

Mr. Yadav stated that Mr. Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar had a “courtesy meeting” with him.

Mr. Verma, a Kurmi, was the BSP’s leader of the Legislative Assembly, while Mr. Rajbhar is a former State BSP president. Both are five-time MLAs, who hail from Ambedkar Nagar in Purvanchal.

Battling allegations of favouring his caste, Mr. Yadav has been actively trying to correct that image of the party by incorporating leaders and parties from the OBC groups. The SP has tied up with the Jat-based Rashtriya Lok Dal led by Jayant Chaudhary in west U.P., Maurya-Kushwaha-based Mahan Dal of Keshav Dev Maurya and Noniya Chauhan leader Sanjay Chauhan’s Janvadi Party (Socialist).

In 2017, the BJP contested in alliance with the Apna Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, but the latter broke away from the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP, however, managed to break away the Nishad Party from the SP-BSP alliance, and now, ahead of Assembly polls, the Nishad Party is bargaining hard to get a decent share of seats.

A riverine OBC community, the Nishads, along with their connected sub-castes Mallah, Kewat, Dheevar, Bind, Kashyap and others are an important segment of the non-Yadav backward vote. Among their political icons are bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, who was also a Lok Sabha member from the SP, which has recently tried to erect statues of her in Rae Bareli.

Nishad Party emergence

The Nishad Party emerged into the political scene in the State ahead of the 2017 polls, projecting itself as the voice of the backward riverine castes, with the demand of their inclusion in the Scheduled Caste list. In 2017, it managed to secure over 5.40 lakh votes in the 72 seats it contested, mostly in east U.P., but failed to win anything.

In 2018, it forged an understanding with the SP and the BSP, helping the former win the crucial Lok Sabha bypoll in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the political fields of Mr. Adityanath and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively. Mr. Praveen Nishad won from Gorakhpur on an SP ticket.

Mr. Nishad then resolved to mobilize the “85%” (OBC, Dalits and Muslims) against the BJP in 2019. However, just three days after he extended support to the SP-BSP, he walked out of it, accusing the two parties of not following the coalition ‘dharma’ and ignoring his party in official campaign material and their ‘non-committal’ attitude over seat-sharing arrangement. He also indicated a swift shift to Hindutva, when he said the alliance of the BJP and his party was a “natural” one just like the one between Lord Ram and Nishadraj, the boatman who, as per Hindu mythology, helped ferry Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman across the Ganga.

Eventually, the BJP allotted one seat to the Nishad Party, Sant Kabir Nagar, for Mr. Praveen, but he had to contest on a BJP ticket. He won.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 7:26:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bjp-nishad-party-to-fight-up-elections-together/article36646442.ece

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