Party-hopping equated to resurgence of social justice politics in UP!

UP Assembly Elections 2022 | The Peculiar Precursor: Part 1

Socialist icon Ram Manohar Lohia’s most popular and oft repeated slogan is- “Live communities do not wait for five years”. His ideological proteges and their affiliated caste-communities in Uttar Pradesh are so sure of their guaranteed lives that they tend to wait full five years for realising the long-awaited dream of social justice. The political scenario that has emerged after the announcement of poll dates for UP assembly elections proves this.

Election Commission of India announced the poll dates for five state assembly elections on January 8th and election code of conduct came into force thereafter. Moral and political misconduct started 24 hours later when the very first switchover happened. Congress party strongman in West UP Imran Masood formally announced his resignation from INC and joined Samajwadi Party with one sitting MLA (from INC) Masood Akhtar, his close confidant. It was the news that everyone knew of since December not only in Saharanpur but even in UPCC headquarters, Lucknow. But no one was clear as to why Congress leadership waited until last minute for confirmation straight out of the horse’s mouth!

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imran_masood
Imran Masood

Imran Masood is the lone figure behind INC’s two successes (Behat and Saharanpur Rural seats) in last assembly election in West UP. Moreover, Masood’s political clout stretches out to Muzaffarnagar and Shamli too. So it was clear from the first day that around a dozen seats are going to be affected. This can be seen in the most recent inventory while filing this copy- SP plus alliance has still not finalised candidates in six constituencies of Saharanpur and INC is full blank on all seven seats of Saharanpur as well as three seats of Shamli district. Last date of filing nominations for first phase seats is January 21st which includes Shamli. Saharanpur goes to poll in the second phase so it still has a week left after that which means a breather for both the parties.

What started with Masood in Saharanpur turned into an exodus within a couple of days when newspapers were full with headlines of backward caste BJP leaders and sitting MLA’s including cabinet ministers in Yogi Adityanath government switching over to Samajwadi Party. The biggest name among these was Swami Prasad Maurya who is said to be leading the fight of OBC leaders and has announced an “endgame for BJP”. A total of three Ministers and seven MLA’s have left BJP and joined SP.

 

This phenomena has resounded in Delhi’s political circles and media as the return of ‘Mandal’ against ‘Kamandal’. Social commentators and seasoned journalists are announcing the resurge of the politics of Social Justice in Uttar Pradesh. This has created pressure upon Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BJP leaders who are now being seen eating regular meals in Dalit houses and circulating photographs on social media. The resurge of caste leaders and revived metaphor of ‘Mandal’ has also forced Vishwa Hindu Parishad to initiate a campaign for the abolition of caste divide and creating Hindu Unity.

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On the face of it this phenomena re-assures those who are anti-BJP and want Hindutva regime to end but it has its own complexities. The most visible being a Catch-22 situation for Samajwadi Party Supremo and Ex-CM Akhilesh Yadav who is having a hard day in distributing tickets and containing reverse migration from SP to other parties. Some recent examples are glaring that put a dent into the much talked slogan of social justice.

In Shamli constituency a BJP defector Prasun Chaudhary has been given ticket by SP-RLD alliance. RLD workers have fiercely protested his candidature because Chaudhary was the one who once celebrated the defeat of Chaudhary Ajit Singh, father of RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary. Bijendra Malik was the most probable candidate on this seat who fought election on RLD ticket in 2017 and lost to BJP. When Bijendra was denied ticket he was contacted by INC and BSP but finally he secured ticket from BSP.

On the neighbouring Kairana seat, SP-RLD alliance candidate Nahid Hasan is a sitting MLA from SP who is a gangster and history sheeter criminal. As soon as the ticket was announced he got arrested on January 15th in an old case due to which partycancelled his candidature and gave ticket to his sister Ikra Hasan. Nahid has been sent to 14 day judicial custody. In Delhi, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyaya of BJP has filed a PIL (Diary No 1834/20222) in Supreme Court accusing Samajwadi Party of violating ECI norms by fielding a gangster. The petitioner also seeks direction to the Election Commission of India to de-register the political party, which violates the directions of the Supreme Court dated 25.9.2018 and 13.2.2020 in letter and spirit.

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In Saharanpur after the news of Imran Masood’s switchover came, Behat sitting MLA from INC Naresh Saini joined BJP. He has now been given ticket from Behat by BJP. Masood on the other hand is said to be disgruntled from Akhilesh Yadav and in contact with BSP to secure ticket for him and his son-in-law. Congress party is waiting for all the disgruntled leaders to come in front so that it could ‘poach’ from the leftovers at the last moment. Believe it or not, ‘Poachable’ and ‘Non-poachable’ Assembly Candidates are the latest entries in political parties electoral inventory!

Meanwhile an interesting development seems to be taking shape in Saharanpur where upper caste Brahmin Muslims (called Gadha Muslims) are mobilising against Sanjay Garg, the sitting MLA from Saharanpur city who is again fighting on SP ticket. The Gadha Muslim community has a large presence in the area and is mostly business class. Community leaders are in close contact with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. The community has a long history of feud with Rashid Masood family and they want to show Imran “his real face” by defeating Sanjay Garg. Advocate Intikhab Azad who comes from the same community alleges that Imran has been sent to Samajwadi Party by Garg only and both have a deal in place. He also alleges of financial deals.

Not only SP and RLD are facing a credential crisis due to party-hoppers, Congress is also in dock over joining of Amit Jani, a Hindutva leader who had formed UP Navnirman Sena a couple of years back and then joined Shivpal Yadav’s party. Jani was welcomed into INC by Acharya Pramod Krishnan recently. Twitter users resorted to anger on welcome images posted by Krishnan and reminded Congress on how Jani gave death threat to Kanhaiya Kumar and announced a bounty over activist Sharjil Imam’s head. UP Congress has given a formal clarification but no explanation over photographs posted by Krishnan. Krishnan is now Covid positive and in isolation.

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Chandrashekhar Azad. Credits: Facebook

To end with the latest icon of social justice in UP Chandrashekhar Azad who wept on air in a TV9 debate upon failed alliance with Samajwadi Party. Azad was at his home in Chhutmalpur on January 11th with hundreds of supporters observing his father’s death anniversary. He spoke at length for around an hour and a half telling tales of conviction and commitment towards the Dalit community. After the speech ended, he sat on a chair and ordered his aide to bring those ‘special and senior’ people who have come to meet him personally. Those were the people who sought favour from Azad in the form of ticket. Glancing at the applications and files he assured each and every one of them of a ticket and told a journalist that he would be fighting alone in the interest of the community.

A couple of days later he met Akhilesh Yadav and the deal could not be struck. Now he says that Akhilesh would be responsible if BJP returns to power in UP. Akhilesh Yadav has said that seat sharing deal was done but Azad got a phone call from Delhi at the last moment and withdrew. Whatever be the truth, Azad Samaj Party is not capable of fielding candidates on its own and after this fiasco SP is not going to entertain it. BSP will never take a chance as West UP is its stronghold. It seems that Chandrashekhar Azad’s electoral debut in UP is going to be a flop show.

Then there is Aam Aadmi Party and many other political parties that are not part of any political alliance. They all are absent in the groundtalk. The initial sentiment on the ground, specially when West UP goes to poll in phase one and two, is almost polarised- it is either BJP or anti-BJP.

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Ashok Chaudhary, a veteran activist fom Saharanpur sums it up, “You may count 325 seats where battle is bi-polar- either BJP or anti-BJP. Just 80 seats are there where other players have some role. Since the sentiment is vertically divided, we may have a full majority verdict in favour of BJP or anything that is anti-BJP? You cannot generalise this time. The fight is from seat to seat”.

And social justice? What about ‘Mandal’ narrative? He suggests to wait for the next ten days when reverse migration takes place from SP to others. Meanwhile first phase nominations that end on January 21st would clear the picture whether tickets have been distributed to potentially winning candidates or those committed to social justice.

While this copy goes to print Chaudhary’s prophecy has come out true in a big way, to say the least. Aparna Yadav, daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh Yadav has joined BJP. This is the anti-climax of poaching season in UP where someone from the political dynasty has switched sides. Nothing could be more peculiar than this eventful ten day precursor to UP elections.
(Continued)

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