A serious effort is underway on behalf of the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party to woo back Other Backward Classes (OBC) leaders into the party fold, after a significant number of them had left to join the Samajwadi Party (SP) just before the 2022 Assembly polls.
The measure is aimed at bolstering the party's ranks before the 2024 General Elections and recapturing the entire non-Yadav OBC space.
Senior sources in the BJP confirmed to The Hinduthat channels of communication had been opened with several of these leaders and also leaders of parties who had been allies of the BJP in the past and represented specific caste groups.
Leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, Dharam Singh Saini, Madhuri Verma, Vinay Shakya and others had left the BJP in the run up to the 2022 Uttar Pradesh polls and crossed over to the Samajwadi Party.
The Samajwadi Party had realised that the BJP’s capture of non-Yadav OBC votes in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 polls had left the Akhilesh Yadav-led party with only Yadavs and Muslims, denting the party’s strength in the State.
The crossing over of these leaders, while not resulting in BJP's loss (Mr. Maurya in fact lost elections in Fazilnagar), had created a narative and ground crisis for the BJP in the midst of the campaign.
"The numer of sitting MLAs that the BJP wanted to drop from the candidate list was curbed, despite their unpopularity as any rebel candidates would have shattered equations seat per seat. The party had to really work hard to woo back angry party workers who had wanted a change in the candidate list. Now, in the run up to2024, we want all the communities from whom we gained support in 2019 to e back in the fold," said a senior leader.
The outreach is being led by the Central leadership of the party and not the Uttar Pradesh unit and sources say that feelers have also gone out to Om Prakash Rajbhar, leader of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), who has been bickering with his alliance partner and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav ever since the results of the 2022 U.P. Assembly polls were announced.
OBCs comprise nearly 40% of the vote in Uttar Pradesh and the BJP's success in the State has been attributed to the way it has been able to shore up support among non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits in the State. With alliances with the Apna Dal (led by Union minister Anupriya Patel) and previously with the SBSP, the 2019 polls saw the NDA polls 51.19% of the vote and register a big victory despite the alliance between the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).