SP-BSP combine gains more OBC heft

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Caste net widens as crucial regional parties in eastern U.P. announce support for the alliance

The SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh gathered strength on Tuesday with the formal support of three smaller OBC-based parties of Purvanchal — in particular the Nishad Party, which had trounced the BJP in the 2018 Gorakhpur byelection.

The Rashtriya Samanta Dal of Motilal Kushwaha and the Janwadi Party (Socialist) of Sanjay Chauhan are the other two regional players to throw their weight behind the alliance.

Though marginal players on their own, the parties command a substantial caste-based following, and their support will help the SP-BSP alliance shake off the Yadav-Jatav tag.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the coming together of these parties with the SP-BSP-RLD alliance would usher in a “big change” in U.P.

“Those who spoke of 74 [seats] will now think where they will open their account from. Except for one, I don’t think they can open their account,” Mr. Yadav said at a press conference.

He was alluding to the BJP’s regular claims that it would improve its tally of 73 and not lose any seats.

In the 2018 byelection in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, the SP reached out to these parties to secure all three seats. In Gorakhpur, Pravin Nishad, son of Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad, contested and won on the SP symbol.

Mr. Sanjay Nishad said he had come together with Mr. Yadav to ensure there was no division of the “85% vote”, a reference to the Dalits, OBCs and Muslims, and said the “historic win in Gorakhpur” would be repeated in other seats as well in 2019.

He said under the BJP government, the Constitution and the interests of the youth and farmers were in danger.

Sanjay Chauhan, president of the Janwadi Party (Socialist), said that after coming to power, the BJP was trying to finish off reservations for Dalits and OBCs. All OBCs have now understood their “conspiracy”, he said. “BJP made most backward castes fight with one caste (Yadavs), and got votes of these castes, telling them that one caste is eating up all their share. But who is now eating up the share of the OBCs,” Mr. Chauhan asked.

Wider vote pool

The support of the Nishad Party, which claims a significant presence among riverine castes including Mallah, Nishad, Kewat, Bind and Kashyap, and the Janwadi Party of Noniya Chauhans is expected to counter the BJP’s two OBC-based allies in eastern U.P. — the Apna Dal of the Kurmis and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party of Rajbhars.

In the 2017 Assembly election, the Nishad Party secured over 5.4 lakh votes in the 72 seats it contested, mostly in eastern U.P. The JPS had extended support to the BSP in 2017.

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