Lucknow: The expulsion of two more MLAs is the latest saga to dog the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which appears to be disintegrating ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Thursday’s action against Lalji Verma, who was also the BSP’s legislative party leader, and Akbarpur MLA Ram Achal Rajbhar, takes the total number of legislators expelled by the party to 11, with all of them being removed in the last 18 months.
The BSP now has only seven MLAs in the UP assembly, after another legislator resigned in 2019 when he won a seat in the Parliamentary elections.
What stands out this time is that veterans Verma and Rajbhar, a former UP BSP president, were once close aides of party supremo Mayawati.
In its statement explaining its action, the BSP said the duo had been expelled for allegedly indulging in “anti-party activities during the recently concluded panchayat elections”. It added that neither will get a party ticket nor will they be invited to any party event.
“Lalji Verma is in talks with the SP (Samajwadi Party) and Ram Achal Rajbhar is attempting to join the BJP, so why do we need them in the party? They helped other parties in the panchayat elections,” a BSP functionary told ThePrint. “We want only loyal workers in the party.”
Both leaders, however, denied the allegations.
“As of now, I am not joining any other party. I am shocked by my party’s decision,” Verma told ThePrint. “I have been a loyal worker of this party for the last 25 years. I have been fully dedicated to all the responsibilities given by the party. Some have given wrong feedback to Behenji (Mayawati) about me.”
He added that he was not responsible for the party’s losses in his constituency of Katehari. “During the panchayat polls, we did not perform well because of decisions taken by the zonal coordinator. He was responsible for the results, not me,” Verma said.
Rajbhar also denied the allegations of “anti-party-activities”. “I am not joining any other party,” he said.
ThePrint reached BSP’s state president Bhim Rajbhar but he did not answer repeated phone calls.
Uncertainty among other leaders
The growing expulsions have now led to uncertainty in the BSP cadre.
One BSP MLA, on the condition of anonymity, told ThePrint that a number of the remaining MLAs were unsure of their future in the party.
“Kisko kab hata diya jaaye kya pata (We don’t know who will get expelled when)?” the MLA said, adding that he wasn’t joining another party as of now.
A second BSP functionary accepted there was uncertainty but added that none of this would affect the party’s performance. “Our party is our identity,” he said. “Although we are going through a tough phase now, things will get better.”
A former Lok Sabha candidate of the BSP told ThePrint that the angst in the party was due to “Mayawati’s soft corner for the BJP, and a communication gap with her leaders”.
“Minority leaders in the party are angry due to her soft corner towards the BJP. For OBCs, the SP and BJP seem to be a better option,” he said. “She has been left with Dalits and a certain section of Brahmin leaders like Satish Mishra, Ritesh Pandey and Nakul Dubey. Most probably, the Brahmin vote will be divided by four parties (BJP, SP, BSP and Congress), so what does the BSP gain out of it?”
“Although the party cadre is still very loyal to Behenji, she doesn’t trust her senior leaders,” he added.
This, however, isn’t the only turmoil in the BSP. When Bhim Rajbhar was appointed the party’s new UP president in November last year, he became the fourth person to hold the post since the 2017 assembly elections. The other three being Munquad Ali, R.S. Kushwaha and the now-expelled Ram Achal Rajbhar.
Similarly, when Ritesh Pandey was appointed the BSP’s parliamentary party leader in January last year, he became the fourth leader to hold the post in eight months. The party has 10 MPs in the Lok Sabha.
BSP loss, SP’s gain
The BSP had secured 19 seats in the 2017 assembly elections but in 2019, Ritesh Pandey won an MP seat. The BSP subsequently lost the bypoll at Pandey’s constituency of Jalalpur.
With the expulsion of 11 MLAs, the party now has just seven legislators left in the assembly.
Apart from Verma and Rajbhar, the other expelled MLAs include Chaudhary Aslam Ali, Hargovind Bhargav, Mohammad Mujtaba Siddiqui, Hakim Lal Bind, Mohammad Aslam Raini, Sushma Patel, Vandana Singh, Anil Singh and Ramveer Upadhyay.
According to a third BSP functionary, eight of them are in touch with the SP, while Ramveer Upadhyay, Anil Singh and Ram Achal are looking to join the BJP.
Seven of the MLAs had met SP president Akhilesh Yadav at the party headquarters in Lucknow last October.
Political experts say that the SP will be the biggest gainer in this BSP turmoil.
According to Lucknow University Professor Kaviraj, who closely observes Dalit politics in Uttar Pradesh, if the SP accommodates the BSP dissenters, it will help the former widen its electoral base.
“It is clear that there is a huge amount of uncertainty among BSP leaders and supporters. Almost every month, we get to hear that BSP has expelled someone from the party,” he said. “Instead of solving communication gaps, the BSP high-command is busy expelling leaders. These actions will not help the party.”
“This will help the Samajwadi Party as most of the rebels are reluctant to join the BJP. For the SP, this will help the party reach out to non-Yadav OBCs and a certain section of Dalits,” he added. “Another important thing is that leaders like Lalji Verma will bring experience to the party. He is a five-time MLA and a Kurmi, an important vote-bank in UP.”
Talking to ThePrint, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “We all know that things are not going well in BSP. There is a lot of resentment towards their high-command. Many of their MLAs are in touch with us while some have already met Akhileshji.
“But the final decision will be taken by him (Akhilesh), so I can’t say officially that they are joining the Samajwadi Party.”
But over two dozen senior BSP leaders have joined the Samajwadi Party over the past two years. They include MPs Tribhuvan Dutt and Ram Prasad Chaudhary, former MLAs Babbu Khan and C.L. Verma, who was once considered quite close to Mayawati, and former minister Raghunath Prasad Sankhwar.
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