LUCKNOW: Stung by a flurry of resignations from backward caste MLAs, including the three prominent UP ministers, BJP has moved into an overdrive to arrest the opposition's attempts to set a 'backward versus upper caste' narrative that could potentially hurt the saffron outfit's larger social coalition cobbled successfully in the 2014 Lok Sabha and then again in the 2017 assembly elections.
Even as CM Yogi Adityanath led from the front by attending a 'bhoj' (meal) at a Dalit family's home on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Gorakhpur on Friday, BJP pressed into action 20,000 backward caste leaders across the state to defuse the crisis. As a matter of fact, 'sah-bhoj' - breaking bread with Dalits and downtrodden - was a tradition started by Mahant Avaidyanath. The Goraksh Peeth has been following it religiously since the early 80s.
State BJP vice-president and in charge of OBC Morcha, Daya Shankar Singh, confirmed to TOI that around 50 backward caste leaders have been deputed to each of the 403 assembly constituencies to carry out door-to-door campaigning. "The cadres have been asked to highlight the work done by BJP at the Centre and the state for the backward community," he said.
Sources said that BJP was in no mood to allow the opposition to paint the saffron outfit as a party of just the upper castes. A senior BJP leader pointed out how all the resigning MLAs tried to paint the party dispensation as "ignorant" about the welfare of the backward and Dalits and accused them of tampering with their reservation rights. "If this was true, why did these leaders stick to BJP for the past five years?" Singh said.
Party sources said that the feedback about these leaders from the district and regional levels was not satisfactory. "And they were well aware of it. They knew that they would be denied tickets by the party," said a senior BJP leader. Sources said that Swami Prasad Maurya, who triggered the spate of resignations in the saffron camp, not only wanted a ticket for his son Utkrisht from Unchahar but also sought to shift from his traditional seat of Padrauna to the neighboring Fazilnagar assembly seat in Kushinagar. BJP, however, did not give into his demand as party candidate Ganga has been winning the Fazilnagar seat since 2012.
Likewise, Dara Singh Chauhan, who resigned from the cabinet a day after Maurya, too, wanted to leave the Madhuban assembly seat and contest from Ghosi, which was won by BJP's Phagu Chauhan in 2017. He was appointed Bihar governor in 2019, necessitating a by-poll for the seat that was won by BJP's Vijay Rajbhar, a district-level BJP functionary. "The party cannot shift non-performing MLAs to other seats just because they hold an important post in the organisation or the government," observed a BJP leader.
Meanwhile, rumours about more resignations kept BJP on the tenterhooks. On Friday, a fake resignation letter of Domariyaganj MLA Raghavendra Pratap Singh went viral. Singh termed the letter a conspiracy of SP.
Bhadohi MLA Ravindra Nath Tripathi and minister and Kaiserganj MLA Mukut Bihari Verma have also dismissed similar rumours.