There is no more room in the Samajwadi Party for “any BJP MLA, minister anymore” – Akhilesh Yadav’s words on Saturday morning, a day after he welcomed seven ex-lawmakers, including two ministers, who quit the Yogi Adityanath government this week ahead of next month’s election.
“Let me say this… I will not take any BJP MLA (or) minister anymore. They (the BJP) can deny tickets (to their leaders) if they wish to…” Mr Yadav told reporters in Lucknow.
Mr Yadav on Friday inducted Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, ex-ministers and key OBC leaders, as well as five other BJP MLAs and one from its ally, the Apna Dal.
The flood of OBC leaders who walked out of the BJP and the Yogi Adityanath government over a 72-hour period this week has been widely seen as having blown a big hole in the party’s re-election bid.
Apart from Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, five BJP MLAs – Roshan Lal Verma, Brijesh Prajapti, Mukesh Verma, Vinay Shakya and Bhagwati Sagar – also joined yesterday.
Chaudhary Amar Singh of the Apna Dal, a BJP ally – did too, leaving Bala Avasthi the odd one out.
And now it appears the Samajwadi Party has closed ranks.
Mr Yadav’s declaration also came hours after Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said seat-sharing talks between his Azad Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party had broken down.
“… we are saying now we will not take any more leaders into the Samajwadi Party… We sacrificed a lot to bring people together (but) now there is no scope to take anyone else,” Akhilesh Yadav said.
Chandrashekhar Azad had hit out at Mr Yadav saying he “does not want the support of Dalits”.
Ahead of the election Mr Yadav has stitched together an alliance of regional parties, including those with sway in the non-Yadav OBC communities – like those signed on yesterday – to defeat the BJP.
In 2017 the BJP’s strategy to beat the Samajwadi Party was to win over the non-Yadav OBC castes given Mr Yadav’s most loyal voters are seen to be Yadavs and Muslims.
Akhilesh Yadav last year also joined hands with Omprakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, and with Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal in December. In November he told NDTV he envisaged a “pincer” movement – regional parties and angry farmers – leading to the BJP’s defeat.
Uttar Pradesh votes for a new government in a seven-phase poll that begins on February 10, with results to be counted on March 10.