Within 24 hours, two ministers resigned from the Yogi cabinet. First Labor Minister Swami Prasad Maurya left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and then Forest Minister Dara Singh Chauhan also broke ties. Both the leaders coming from the OBC community are going to start the next innings with the Samajwadi Party. Along with this, the war between SP and BJP over the OBC vote has also become interesting. In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP had caused major damage to the SP by bringing in leaders from non-Yadav OBC castes such as Kurmi, Maurya, Shakya, Saini, Kushwaha, Rajbhar, and Nishad.

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Even the OBC leaders of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were also successful in bringing the BJP into the camp with offers ranging from ministerial posts to important responsibilities in the organization. During the SP rule from 2012 to 2017, there was a perception that the Yadav community got the maximum benefit of government resources and the BJP was able to capitalize on the resentment among the non-Yadav backward caste leaders.

Many OBC leaders of SP and BSP like Swami Prasad Maurya, RK Singh Patel, SP Singh Baghel, Dara Singh Chauhan, Dharam Singh Saini, Brijesh, Kumar Verma, Roshan Lal Verma, and Ramesh Kushwaha had joined BJP before the election. Played an important role in the massive victory of the BJP. Many leaders from other parties reached the assembly after winning the elections, while many were given a place in the Legislative Council and party organization. In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP alone won 312 seats in the 403-seat assembly, while its allies Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SubhSP) got 9 and 4 seats respectively. After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, SubhaSP broke ties and alliances with BJP.

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Akhilesh following BJP’s strategy

Once again, SP President Akhilesh Yadav seems to be adopting BJP’s 2017 strategy in an attempt to gain power in UP. He has focused on bringing non-Yadav OBC leaders with the party. After the setback in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, despite the alliance with the BSP, Akhilesh Yadav started breaking the angry leaders of the BSP. A BSP leader said on the condition of anonymity, “As soon as the second wave of Corona weakened, Akhilesh Yadav asked the big leaders of the party to contact the BSP leaders. Indrajit Saroj and RK Choudhary, who had already revolted from BSP and joined SP, were asked to contact and accept other BSP leaders. The OBC leaders of SP were also entrusted with the responsibility of winning the trust of the rebels.

These leaders were included

Akhilesh Yadav managed to bring OBC leaders belonging to the OBC community such as RS Kushwaha, Lalji Verma, Ramachal Rajbhar, KK Sachan, Veer Singh, and Ram Prasad Choudhary into the SP. BSP’s influential rebel leader Daddu Prasad announced the support of SP in the assembly elections. Akhilesh has also been able to bring leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, Roshan Lal Verma, Vijay Pal, Brajesh Kumar Prajapati, and Bhagwati Sagar, who have already joined BJP from BSP.

BJP engaged in damage control

The party is aware of the damage that can happen to the BJP due to the breakup of these leaders of the OBC community and that is the reason why the party has stepped up damage control efforts. BJP has entrusted its OBC leader Keshav Prasad Maurya and state president Swatantra Dev Singh to persuade Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh Chauhan. Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeted after the resignation of both the ministers of the Yogi cabinet and appealed to them to reconsider. Describing him as a member of the family, he expressed grief.

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After BSP, SP, and then BJP got the benefit

SK Dwivedi, former head of the political science department at Lucknow University, says, “Disgruntled OBC leaders are leaving the BJP to join the Samajwadi Party, but how much they are able to transfer the votes of their community to the SP, it is a matter of assembly elections.” Another political expert SK Srivastava said, “The share of OBCs in the population of Uttar Pradesh is about 45 percent. His support played a vital role in getting the BSP to power in 2007, the SP in 2012, and then the BJP in 2017. The BJP took advantage of his disillusionment with the SP in 2017. Will Akhilesh Yadav be able to take electoral advantage of BJP’s rebel OBC leaders by inducting them into the party? This will be the deciding factor for the 2022 assembly elections.