LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could organize communal riots, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is lying about the Ram Temple, and changing the names of cities is pointless — are just some of things that Om Prakash Rajbhar, a political ally of the BJP and a cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh, has said.
In a recent conversation with HuffPost India, Rajbhar even asked why Adityanath was letting sadhus smoke ganja at the Kumbh Mela. “Yogi ji is always beating a drum about law and order. Why is he not cracking down on the users and the suppliers of ganja at the kumbh?” he said.
Rajbhar, whose community of agricultural labourers is one of the “most backward” of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), is getting away with goading the ruling party because the BJP needs him to fight off the formidable caste alliance forged by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party for the 2019 general election.
“Only the most backward castes can save the BJP in UP,” he claims.
Only the most backward castes can save the BJP in UP.
In 2017, BJP president Amit Shah extended his social engineering (partnering with parties from marginalized communities) to Rajbhar’s little known Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).
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Rajbhar exercised his influence in BJP’s favor in 125 Assembly seats in eastern UP. Four out the eight SBSP candidates were elected to the UP Assembly. Rajbhar was made a cabinet minister after the BJP swept to power.
In less than two years, Rajbhar is on the verge of breaking up with the BJP. Citing examples of other “unhappy” allies like Anupriya Patel, Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan, he said, “BJP leaders are like the British (colonizers). They use and throw their political allies.”
If Adityanath fails to divide the 27% reservation for OBCs into three categories — backward, very backward and most backward — Rajbhar says his party will contest all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP.
If Adityanath signs off, Rajbhar is confident that he can deliver 15% to 20% of the “very” and “most” backward votes, which would help BJP get 50% of votes in UP. (The BJP’s vote share in 2017 was 39.65%).
Rajbhar says that Modi and Amit Shah have until 24 February to decide whether they want to win UP or not.
The BJP, however, is in a bind.
While recommending the division of the OBC quota, a four-member Social Justice Committee has proposed limiting reservation for the dominant castes - Yadavs, Patels, Kurmis and Jats — to 7%, and giving 11% to the very backward and 9% to the most backward.
Yadavs are loyal to the SP, but Kurmis have been voting for the Anupriya Patel-led Apna Dal, a key ally of the BJP in UP. It is worth noting that the SPSB won 0.70% of votes in UP and 34.14% of votes in the seats it contested in 2017, and Apna Dal secured 0.98% of votes in UP and 39.21% votes in the seats contested
“There should be no reservation for Yadavs, Patels and Sonars,” said Rajbhar. “But neither the BJP nor the Congress have the guts to do it.”
In a conversation with HuffPost India, Rajbhar spoke about his meetings with Amit Shah, how he felt when Modi picked Yogi Adityanath to be chief minister, why he has fallen out with the BJP in less than two years, and his caste calculation for the 2019 general election.
Did you know that Narendra Modi was going to pick Yogi Adityanath to be CM?
No. At that point, and this is the bitter truth, the BJP asked for votes in the name of the backward castes. They said the CM would be made from the backward castes. That was dokha right there and then.
Did you want to be CM?
No, I did not want to be CM. I’m just an ally partner. I was not in the race.
Did Amit Shah say that a leader from the backward classes would be CM?
Yes, Amit Shah ji did.
No, not him. I would speak with Amit Shah ji because he is the president of the BJP and I’m president of the SBSP.
Were you upset when Modi picked Yogi Adityanath?
On March 19, one year after we took oath, I did not participate in the celebrations. The chief minister called and said you should participate, but I said no. The backward castes have been betrayed.
On March 20, Amit Shah ji called me to Delhi and we spoke for about two hours. He repeated that the division of 27 percent reservation would be done six months before the election. Amit Shah ji said this. Now, there are 50 days left for the election.
You seem very confident about delivering 15% of the non-Yadav OBC votes to the BJP.
BJP has 35% to 36% of the vote in UP. BJP needs 15% to 20% votes to win. They can get this. These include Nishad, Bind, Kewat, Mallah, Rajbhar, Chauhan, Bot, Prajapati, Pal, Lohar, Kumar… there are so many small subcastes, there is no exact count of their votes. These can all go to the BJP if I say so. The SP-BSP alliance will fail. If it does not, I will give up my ministership and resign from politics.
How have you calculated?
In 22 Lok Sabha constituencies, there are one lakh, 1.25 to 1.50 lakh votes. There are 50,000 to two lakh votes just with the Rajbhar in 22 constituencies. Nishad, Bind, Kewat, Malhar also make up one lakh to 1.25 lakh votes. The Pal, Prajapati, Raghuvanshi, Biyar, Arakh, Gujjar — these votes constitute 2.5 to three lakh votes. If Om Prakash Rajbhar says so, these people will close their eyes and give their vote to the BJP.
What about the rest of the constituencies?
We have had meetings. In Sitapur, 10,000 people came. In Hardoi, 15,000 to 16,000 people came. We have had meetings in Sambhal, Etah, Etawah, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad. There is no place where at least 3,000 to 5,000 people are not turning up. We are not giving them money to turn up like other parties. They come with their tractors. They bring their own food. The stage and mike belongs to them. I just go and give my speech.
The SP-BSP alliance will fail. If it does not, I will give up my ministership and resign from politics.
Have you spoken to the CM about dividing the OBC quota?
Yes, several times. Every poor person should get reservation. If you can give 10 percent reservation for the poor — without even forming a committee— then why can you not give reservation to the poorest sections of the backward castes. But Yogi ji has been made by his party. He cannot do anything until his party wants him to.
He is chief minister of UP. Are you saying that he follows Delhi?
Yes, I’m absolutely saying that. Yogi ji cannot act on his own. His masters are Amit Shah ji and Modi ji.
Why are you so angry with him?
I’m a minister for the Backward Castes ministry. The work done in that ministry should be known to me. The CM should asked me do it. We suggested 27 names for the UP State Commission for Backward Classes, but the CM did not take a single name we sent. When there has been a samuhik vivah (community wedding), he goes by himself. Tell me one event in which the chief minister has taken me with him. If you don’t want to have any consultation with me then why have you given me the ministry. Keep it.
The five crores that were due to Triveni Ram (SBSP - MLA) for constructing a road were given to the BJP MP instead. He spoke about it in the Assembly but we did not get any response. The weakness is with the BJP. They have failed to carry their allies along with them.
Tell me one event in which the chief minister has taken me with him.
Is there anything other than the quota issue that you have raised.
There are 1,59,000 primary schools in UP. There are 1,00,70,000 children studying in these schools. They are all poor children. These students have been sitting on taats (mats) and they continue sitting on taats today. After the government was formed, it was agreed that we would remove the taats and put tables and chairs like they have in convent schools. It has been 22 months since the government came to power but there has been no change in even a single district. There is no studying going on in primary schools. 3,68,000 teaching posts are lying vacant. There are schools that are run by one or two teachers. Until there is education for everyone, the state and the country cannot progress.
Is there anything else?
Sixteen coaching centers have been opened up for Scheduled Castes and tribals, but there is nothing for backward castes. We are 18 mandals. It was decided that after the government was formed, we would open coaching classes in these mandals. But months have gone and there is not a single coaching which has opened up.
How will Priyanka Gandhi change the election scenario?
Priyanka ji’s joining has enthused the Congress Party workers. Rahul ji is saying the right things. Sometimes, I really like what he says. But the BSP vote won’t go to them. The SP vote won’t go to them. Some of BJP’s 38% vote might go to them. The BJP voter today used to be the Congress voter.
What about Muslims, Dalits and Brahmins?
Dalits will stay with the BSP. Brahmins are a caste that stays with the party in power.
Why did Modi pick Yogi Adityanath to be CM in 2017?
The country has a religious character. The BJP gets votes by swaying people on the basis of religion and by lying. When the elections come, the BJP prays to Lord Ram. They say we can’t make the temple, but please make our government. Lord Ram says okay, but now even Lord Ram is sick of the BJP. Yogi ji said he will build the Ram Temple when he reaches Lucknow, but he has not laid a single brick. Yogi ji says he will build the Ram Temple in 24 hours if the Supreme Court cannot do it. Does he have some machine? Why are you lying, Yogi ji?
You are part of a government that has changed the names of Allahabad, Faizabad and Mughalsarai.
At the time, I said that changing the name of the station will not ensure that the trains run on time. Education, housing and toilets will not improve if you change the name of the city. Why do you use the Red Fort, made by Mughals. Why do you walk on the Grand Trunk Road, made by Sher Shah Suri. Shah Jahan made the Taj Mahal. Why is this tourist attraction.
The BJP has only one goal, provoke enmity between Hindus and Muslims, and stay in power. But the BJP is also doing the same as previous governments. Mayawati changed names of places and constructed stone statues. Akhilesh Yadav played the Kumbh Mela game. The BJP is also playing the Kumbh Mela game.
The BJP has only one goal, provoke enmity between Hindus and Muslims, and stay in power.
Did you oppose changing the names?
I was not there when these decisions were taken, but I made clear that I was not in favor of this.
You are part of a government that is criticized for engaging in extra judicial killings.
There have been fake encounters. I have said this to the CM, and I have made a statement about it. The adhikari (officer) wants a promotion, and the minister wants votes. The officer, who wants a promotion, no longer cares what is right or wrong.
When did you speak with the CM about it?
I tell him when we meet every Tuesday (for cabinet meetings). He says only you say this, but the other 46 people cannot see it. I tell him the other 46 are with your party and they don’t have the guts to tell you. You have put a lock on their mouths. He says that he has not put any lock, and I say he has.
Is the Modi wave over?
The vote that BJP was given in 2014 and 2017, that vote has been hurt. Otherwise, the BJP would not be so stressed out. If I am angry then crores of other people are also angry. The slogan, Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi, is over. Modi ji has finished jobs. After notebandi, the builder to the laborer is starving. After GST — where there used to be 100 people in a private firm — now there are 20 to 25. The BJP’s biggest agenda is Hindu-Muslim. They will try it but the public is tired. They will fail.
What is your problem with sadhus smoking ganja at the Kumbh Mela?
There is a poor rickshaw driver, and say he buys ganja for 20 rupees after a hard day’s work. If the police catches him, he is put in jail. But the sadhus are having ganja at the Kumbh Mela. Why is Yogi ji allowing ganja at the Kumbh Mela Where is the ganja at the Kumbh Mela coming from? Yogi ji is always beating a drum about law and order. Why is Yogi ji allowing ganja to come into UP? Why is he not cracking down on the users and the suppliers of ganja at the Kumbh.
It is tradition.
How is it tradition? No one has license to sell ganja. Is there an exception for the sadhus?