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Uttar Pradesh: Those who turned Akhilesh against Swami Prasad Maurya ultimately ditched him

Not long ago, the likes of Manoj Pandey, Rakesh Pandey and Abhay Singh were pressurizing the SP leadership to somehow rein in Swami Prasad Maurya, writes Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The recently held Rajya Sabha elections, with the General Elections just around the corner, were in the news for horse-trading of MLAs. In the voting to elect 10 Rajya Sabha members from Uttar Pradesh, seven MLAs of the Samajwadi Party (SP) voted in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates while one abstained. Two Muslim MLAs from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) voting for the BJP was an interesting aspect of these elections. As a result, Alok Ranjan, one of the three SP candidates, lost. The elections foretell the emergence of new political equations in Uttar Pradesh.   

Not long ago, the likes of Manoj Pandey, Rakesh Pandey and Abhay Singh were pressurizing the SP leadership to somehow rein in Swami Prasad Maurya. Besides the three, who were considered close to Akhilesh, Maurya’s ideas had become unpalatable to many other Savarna leaders of the party as well. They were not happy with the way Maurya was trying to mobilize Dalits and the OBCs through his non-brahmanical politics. 

Maurya’s comments on Ram temple, religion, Dalits icons and Dalit consciousness were denting the new image SP was trying to build for itself. In fact, since 2017, Akhilesh has been trying to transform the image of his party. He wants to free SP from the tag of a Yadav-Muslim party. With this objective, besides luring the urban middle-class, the SP has been trying to appease the Savarnas through social engineering. Against this backdrop, when Maurya said that the party needed to draw a line in the sand on issues that mattered to Dalits and OBCs, it was bound to discomfit those coming from the upper castes.

Be that as it may, at the behest of his associates, Akhilesh clipped the wings of Maurya, who has now floated his own political outfit, the Rashtriya Shoshit Samaj Party, to further his ideological politics. But those associates, at whose instance Maurya was pushed out of the party, failed the first test of their loyalty to Akhilesh. Interestingly, until a few days ago, Abhay Singh was making public pronouncements of his life-long allegiance to Akhilesh. He said, “My father tells me that Akhilesh picked you from the streets and made you an MLA. But for him, you would have been a small-time criminal. Don’t ever desert him.” Clearly, Abhay did not heed his father’s advice. In any case, changing godfathers is common enough in politics.   

Manoj Pandey was SP’s chief whip in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Now, apparently, he will issue a whip to the members of his community to vote against the SP. But it is also true that not all the seven SP MLAs who violated the party whip are upper-caste. The upper-caste among them include Rakesh Pandey, Manoj Pandey, Abhay Singh, Rakesh Pratap Singh and Vinod Chaturvedi. The remaining two are Pooja Pal and Ashutosh Maurya. Pooja had been gravitating towards the BJP since the murder of Atiq Ahmed. Earlier, she was with the BSP. Rakesh Pandey’s son Ritesh Pandey, an MP from Ambedkarnagar, has recently quit the BSP to join the BJP.

Maharaji Devi, MLA from Amethi and the wife of former minister Gayatri Prajapati, abstained from voting. Her husband is in jail on charges ranging from rape to graft. When asked to comment on SP MLAs ditching him, Akhilesh said, “Those who don’t have the courage to fight will quit.” This can be true to a great extent for Maharaji Devi. Over the past year, her husband has been acquitted by an MP-MLA court in one case. In the days to come, he may get relief in other cases as well.

Estranged friends: Akhilesh Yadav, president, Samajwadi Party, and Swami Prasad Maurya, president, Rashtriya Shoshit Samaj Party

The case of two RLD MLAs – Ghulam Mohammed, elected from Siwalkhas, and Ashraf Ali, returned from Shamli, is no less interesting. Six of the nine RLD MLAs were elected with the support of Muslim voters. In Chandpur, Shamli and Mirapur, the Jat voters had largely sided with the BJP. Madan Bhaiya, the RLD MLA from Khatauli, will have to go back to the Muslim voters in the coming elections. These MLAs have voted in the Rajya Sabha polls in keeping with their party’s new alliance but what they will tell their voters in the coming elections is anybody’s guess. 

Amir Alam was the strongest backer of RLD’s decision to join the NDA. He wanted his son Nawazish to contest from Kairana but Akhilesh was adamant on fielding Iqra Hasan. Amir Alam marched into the BJP camp along with his supporter MLAs on this issue. If he is able to convince his voters about the validity of his decision, that may affect the poll outcome not only in Kairana but also in Baghpat, Bijnor and Muzaffarnagar. But will the Muslim voters accede to his request and vote for BJP or BJP-supported candidates? We’ll find out once the General Election results are declared. 

While defections and victories and defeats are all a part and parcel of politics, the recent Rajya Sabha elections raise two pertinent questions. One, are Dalits and OBCs ready to draw a line in the sand on issues that concern them? The Savarna MLAs who have quit SP have made it clear that they have no ideological commitment to the politics of the OBCs and the Dalits. Against this backdrop, will SP go back to its original ideology and commitments? Two, are Muslim leaders using the RLD to find an alternative like Nitish Kumar which would allow them to back the BJP without actually joining the party? 

(Translation from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia)

About The Author

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

Syed Zegham Murtaza is an independent journalist based in Delhi. Born in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, Murtaza has a masters in public administration and mass communication from Aligarh Muslim University. He is a regular contributor to various newspapers, magazines and news websites.

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