The Samajwadi Party on Saturday ended a long cold war and officially told Shivpal Yadav of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohiya) and Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) that they were free to break the alliance with the party.
Soon after separate letters addressed to them by the SP became public, Mr. Rajbhar held a press conference and welcomed the snapping of ties. He accused SP president Akhilesh Yadav of betraying the backward communities. “Akhilesh gave us talaq, we accept the divorce. Talaq kabool hai,” he said.
The SBSP fought the Assembly election earlier this year in alliance with the SP and won six seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Claiming that Mr. Yadav only listened to a coterie of leaders who had no grassroots presence, the OBC leader said his advice to give more seats in the Assembly election to candidates of the backward castes was ignored. So was his suggestion to give ticket to somebody from the most backward castes ahead of the Azamgarh Lok Sabha byelection. “I sought more ticket for Kashyap, Pal and Prajapati communities; he did not listen to me. When the Yadav-Muslim formula was not working, it was time to look beyond. But he gave ticket to a Yadav,” he said, referring to Mr. Yadav’s cousin and SP candidate Dharmendra Yadav..
Mr. Shivpal, on the other hand, said he had always been free but thanked the party for releasing an official letter to formally set him free. “In the political journey, compromise with principles and honour is unacceptable,” he said.
The letter to Mr. Shivpal, the younger brother of party patriarch Mulayam Singh, addressed him as mannniya (honourable); no such term of respect was used in Mr. Rajbhar’s letter. Interestingly, both have been issued by the Delhi office and no name has been mentioned beneath the signature. A party source said that the letters were signed by the Delhi office in-charge to respect the position of Mr. Shivpal.
While the letter to Mr. Shivpal made no mention of his growing closeness with the BJP after the Assembly election and during the recent Presidential election when he urged representatives to vote for NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu, Mr. Rajbhar’s was not quiet on the subject. The SP was fighting the BJP, while Mr. Rajbhar was strengthening the ruling party with his “nexus with the BJP”, it said.
Mr. Rajbhar addressed this allegation at the press conference, declaring that he was not a slave and was free to meet anybody.
Referring to a meeting between Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh in the presence of Mr. Akhilesh, he said, “If they meet, it’s okay. When I do, my motives are questioned.”
Though Mr. Rajbhar has not revealed his cards yet, SP sources indicated that he was on the way to embracing the BJP again. “Providing him with the Y-category security was the first step in the direction,” said a senior party leader from Azamgarh.
BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi took a dig at Mr. Yadav over this event. “The SP has had a history of ditching alliance partners. Somebody who could not be true to his father, how could he be expected to understand the concerns of the alliance partners,” he remarked.
Alliance made untenable
Though Mr. Rajbhar played a role in the SP’s performance in Purvanchal, party sources said that the relationship had untenable because of the comments he had been making. The way senior party leader Azam Khan had taken on Mr. Rajbhar over the past few days had also helped the party in making a strong decision.
Recently, when asked to comment on Mr. Rajbhar’s jibe at Mr. Akhilesh for not coming out of air-conditioned rooms, Mr. Khan said, “We haven’t seen Mr. Rajbhar standing in sunlight either.” He went on to say that criticism was fine but one should not cross the line of decency so much so that the chances of sitting together again become almost impossible.
The senior leader from Azamgarh, however, suggested that the party should not have made SBSP’s support to Mr. Murmu a “prestige issue”. “We do the politics of the backwards, Dalits and tribals. How could we support a Bhumihar or a Thakur?,” he asked.