New Delhi: In a major jolt to the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh, state Cabinet minister and influential OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya on Tuesday quit the Yogi Adityanath government and the BJP ahead of the upcoming crucial Assembly polls. Along with Mr Maurya, three BJP legislators — Tindwari MLA Brajesh Prajapati, Tilhar MLA Roshan Lal Varma and Bilhaur MLA Bhagwati Sagar — announced they would also leave the BJP in support of the minister.
Almost minutes after Mr Maurya’s resignation, a photograph of him with Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav was shared on the latter’s social media handle welcoming him into the SP and predicting a “historic defeat of the BJP” in the coming polls. However, Mr Maurya’s daughter, BJP MP from Badaun Sanghamitra Maurya, claimed that her father had only resigned from the BJP and not joined any other party yet, and that he would reveal his strategy in a couple of days.
Union home minister Amit Shah, sources said, has been tasked with the task of damage control in poll-bound UP.
Speculation is rife that at least a dozen BJP MLAs who are considered close to Mr Maurya could resign soon, amid rumours that the BJP leadership is planning to replace more than 35 per cent of its sitting MLAs to combat “anti-incumbency”. Opinion polls have predicted that the BJP will possibly retain power in UP this time, though with a lesser number of seats as compared to the 2017 election.
The sources said that Mr Amit Shah had, in a damage control exercise, had at least two telephonic conversations with Mr Maurya after the news of his resignation broke. Mr Maurya claimed “gross neglect” towards dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders by the Yogi Adityanath government as reasons for his decision to quit the party.
The resignations came on a day when the top UP BJP top leadership, including chief minister Yogi Adityanath, deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal and state unit chief Swatantra Dev Singh, among others, were in the national capital for a brain-storming session for the coming polls with the BJP top brass, including Mr Shah. BJP president J.P. Nadda, who is Covid-positive, joined the meeting via video conferencing, where the BJP leadership was assessing its performance constituency-wise. Sources said that at least 20-23 calls were made by Mr Bansal, Mr Maurya and the BJP state unit chief to the MLAs who quit, and even those whose names were reported by the media as likely quit the BJP. The BJP’s UP election in-charge and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Mr Bansal, it was learnt, also called leaders of the party’s key allies in the state — Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel and Nishad Party’s Sanjay Nishad — as the seat-sharing formula is yet to be officially announced. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was learnt, was also apprised about the UP situation.
In UP political circles, speculation had been rife for the past couple of months that the SP chief was in touch with some OBC and Brahmin leaders of the BJP to “successfully implement the social engineering formula” to dent the saffron party’s chances of retaining power in the politically crucial state. Mr Maurya, who joined the BJP from the BSP in 2016, said his reason for quitting the party was the Yogi Adityanath government’s “gross neglect” of dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders. However, within the BJP, the buzz was that he wanted tickets for more than two dozen of his supporters. Mr Shah, it was learnt, had held a one-on-one meeting with Mr Maurya during his recent visit to the state and had assured him that his grievances would be addressed.
Soon after Mr Maurya’s resignation from the BJP, the SP chief shared a photograph of himself and Mr Maurya on his social media handle with the tweet: “This time all the oppressed, downtrodden, neglected will unite against the BJP’s insulting and divisive politics… There will be a revolution of the SP’s politics of giving respect to all. In 2022, with everyone meeting each other, there will be positive politics of ‘mela hobe’. There will be a historic defeat of the BJP.”
Urging Mr Maurya to reconsider his move, deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeted: “I don’t know for what reasons respected Swami Prasad Maurya has tendered his resignation. I appeal to him to sit down for a talk. Decisions taken in a hurry often prove wrong.”
In his resignation letter addressed to UP governor Anandiben Patel, the five-time MLA from Padrauna said: “I discharged my responsibilities as the minister for labour, employment and coordination in the council of ministers headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, despite adverse circumstances and ideology.”
Mr Maurya’s departure from the BJP is likely to damage the party’s prospects in at least 20 seats spread across Kushinagar, Pratapgarh, Kanpur Dehat, Banda and Shahjahanpur.