Dara Singh Chauhan, like Keshav Prasad Maurya, attributed his decision to what he called was “the government’s neglectful attitude towards the backward classes, the underprivileged, the Dalits, the farmers, and the unemployed youth”.
Dara Singh Chauhan and Keshav Prasad Maurya were imported by the BJP from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the run-up to the 2017 UP polls. His resignation was anticipated as he was spotted at Swami Prasad Maurya’s Gomti Nagar residence in Lucknow on Tuesday.
Chauhan resigned shortly after another OBC legislator Avtar Singh Bhadana, who quit the BJP earlier but whose resignation was on hold, joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), an ally of UP’s main opposition Samajwadi Party (SP).
As on Tuesday, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya immediately tried to reach out to Chauhan, urging him to reconsider his decision. “One feels bad if a family member loses way. I would just request the respected leaders who have resigned to reconsider their decision as they won’t achieve anything by riding a sinking boat. I would appeal to big brother Dara Singhji to reconsider his decision,” tweeted Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, also an OBC face of the BJP in UP, along with chief minister Yogi Adityanath and other deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma is in Delhi since Tuesday, for the candidate selection meetings for 58 constituencies in 11 districts that will vote on February 10.
The resignations of Swami Prasad and Dara Singh from the council of ministers haven’t yet been accepted yet, a development that some BJP leaders see as a glimmer of hope though Swami quickly negated any reconsideration.
“I haven’t resigned as a BJP member yet. I will reveal everything on January 14 though one thing is clear that I am not going to the BJP,” Swami said on being asked about his status as BJP leader.
The BJP did try to showcase that the party has a counter plan in place, as it quickly got Naresh Saini, the Congress’ OBC lawmaker from Saharanpur in western UP and who hails from the same backward community as Swami Prasad Maurya to join the saffron party along with three-time SP lawmaker Hari Om Yadav and former SP lawmaker Dharampal Singh in Delhi in the presence of Keshav Maurya as well as party’s UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev, an OBC.
The fast-paced political developments on Tuesday and Wednesday meant that BJP strategists, who apparently had seen Dara Singh Chauhan’s resignation coming and were even trying to persuade him against taking the decision, had more tasks on their hands.
The BJP’s damage-control plan was clear – to make up by engineering defections in opposition ranks and reach out to disgruntled party leaders.
While a glimpse of the first round of the damage-control exercise was visible with the joining of some OBC lawmakers into the party, it was the latter plan of reaching out to and placating disgruntled leaders that is seen to be much more challenging.
“It’s not good optics,” said a party leader while indicating that some “big leaders” would join the BJP too.
Swami Prasad also said that after his resignation and with it that of others, BJP leaders have started to give respect to leaders and lawmakers, and added that now several sitting BJP MLAs, who were likely to be axed, might be retained.
Several BJP lawmakers – many of them fearing that they may not get the party ticket – have been leaving the party. On Monday, BJP MLA from Bilsi Assembly segment in Budaun Radha Krishna Sharma joined the SP, the second Brahmin MLA of the party after Digvijay Narain Chaubey, MLA from Khalilabad in Sant Kabir Nagar, to join the main opposition party. Earlier, BJP MLA from Bahraich Madhuri Verma, Rakesh Rathore from Sitapur, both OBCs, also joined the SP.
While admitting that the high-voltage political drama in Lucknow caught them off guard, some BJP leaders made it clear that Tuesday’s developments were unlikely to alter the party’s “candidate selection” strategy.
A BJP leader said the party’s core group that was discussing candidate selection in national Capital Delhi was unlikely to be influenced by these developments.
“UP elections are important. Naturally, if some candidates are dropped, it could be because of some specific input that might have emerged through field surveys. While it is true that we don’t want to lose any leader, at the same time why do you think a certain political development that could be big news for the media would force us to compromise on candidate selection. Only the best will be selected. There are hundreds of claimants from each assembly segment and all know that only one eventually will get to contest,” a senior leader said.
While UP’s labour minister Swami Prasad Maurya merely cited generic reasons for his quitting the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, a section in the party believes that like in 2016 when he presumably left the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) after failing to secure a ticket for his daughter Sanghmitra (now a BJP MP from Badaun) and son Utkrisht – this time too, he fell out with the party over a ticket for his son.
Maurya said that his daughter was free to take her own call after his exit. “It’s for her to decide on what she wants to do. I can’t force my decision on anyone including family,” Swami Prasad said.