As ex-BJP ministers join SP, FIR for Covid norms breach
LUCKNOW: Former UP cabinet ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini joined Samajwadi Party along with five BJP and one Apna Dal MLAs at an event in the party’s Lucknow headquarters on Friday, signalling a churning that might compel politicians to reboot their caste strategies ahead of the coming state assembly polls.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said as much, describing Maurya, Saini and the group of MLAs’ shift to his party as a move that will upset BJP’s caste arithmetic in the elections.
He took a dig at BJP’s “80% vs 20% maths” with a cricket analogy: “The way wickets are falling that side, the chief minister must have realised he has dropped the catch. Now it seems … he will have to take tuition from a mathematics teacher as well.”
Apart from Maurya and Saini, the six MLAs who formally joined SP on Friday are Bhagwati Sagar, Brijesh Kumar Prajapati, Vinay Shakya, Roshan Lal Verma, Dr Mukesh Verma, and Amar Singh of Apna Dal, a party that is part of the government in UP.
Sources said Dara Singh Chauhan, the third minister to resign from the Yogi cabinet recently, is likely to join SP on Sunday. Later, police lodged an FIR against 2,500 SP members for violating Covid curbs on public gatherings and the EC’s ban on rallies after party supporters, ex-ministers, MPs and MLAs attended the induction ceremony at its HQ.
The rush led to traffic snarls. The gathering violated Section 144 of CrPC and provisions of the epidemic law that was in place in view of a surge in Covid cases. The EC has banned rallies till January 15. At the event that was supposed to be “virtual” with minimal attendance, Akhilesh said that “80% people are standing with SP” following its alliances with smaller parties and several MLAs joining it.
“After listening to Maurya ji, the remaining 20% will go against them (BJP government),” he said. He was responding to CM Yogi Adityanath’s recent remarks that the political battle in UP has “become a fight of 80 versus 20”. His comments were seen as an attempt to polarise voters—80% majority community as opposed to 20% minorities.
He clarified later that he was referring to 80% positive people while those backing terrorists and mafia making up the 20%. For his part, Maurya accused the government of adopting a “use and throw” policy towards scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward castes to form a government in UP that he alleged was being run by the privileged caste.
The 68-year-old politician said SP is now ready with patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s “Charkha Dao” to defeat BJP in the caste arithmetic. As a young wrestler Mulayam was known for his “Charkha Dao”—a move that would let him lift an opponent off his feet, spin him around, and throw him to the ground. Maurya attacked BJP from the word go, saying the party “caters” to 5% of the upper caste, ignoring the votes from 23% scheduled castes and tribes and 54% backward classes.
“BJP talks of taking along 80% Hindus when it comes to elections, but once the government is formed only 5% upper caste malai khate hain (enjoy the fruits).” He alleged that before the 2017 assembly polls, BJP leadership “used to say Keshav Prasad Maurya or Swami Prasad Maurya will become CM,” but when the time came, “they tried to drop a Skylab from Ghazipur and then eventually sent one from Gorakhpur”. Maurya joined BJP before the 2017 assembly polls.
(With inputs from Pathikrit Chakraborty)