In a massive hit to the BJP and Yogi Adityanath just before the Uttar Pradesh election, a minister and three MLAs quit today and joined the party’s main challenger, Akhilesh Yadav. Swami Prasad Maurya, a top minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, posted his resignation letter on Twitter.
Maurya alleged that he was “uncomfortable” in the party as OBCs, Dalits and the youth were being neglected. According to sources, the leader is now expected to join the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday in Lucknow.
Soon after he went public, three more MLAs, Roshan Lal Verma, Brijesh Prajapati and Bhagwati Sagar announced their resignations.
Swami Prasad Maurya, a powerful OBC (Other Backward Class) leader and five-time MLA, joined the BJP in 2016 after quitting Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He was central to the BJP’s plans to draw a critical section of OBC voters to counter Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.
Despite a divergent ideology, I worked with dedication in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet. But because of the grave oppression of Dalits, OBCs, farmers, unemployed and small businessmen, I am resigning,” Mr Maurya wrote in the stinging resignation letter.
He also told reporters: “What impact my exit will have on the BJP will be obvious after the 2022 assembly election.”
You will see my resignation’s impact when results of 2022 polls come. There are not just three, but dozens of MLAs who will leave BJP,” Maurya later told media.
As his letter emerged on Twitter, Akhilesh Yadav tweeted a photograph with Mr Maurya, welcoming him and his supporters to the Samajwadi Party.
The exits reinforced the view that resentment in the ranks against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is an issue the BJP has left unaddressed.
Mr Maurya’s decision had been months in the making. Sources say two months ago, he had complained to Union Home Minister Amit Shah about Yogi Adityanath. But nothing reportedly came of it.
Sources say Amit Shah has tasked Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya with persuading Mr Maurya and his supporters to return.
Mr Maurya is the MLA from Padrauna in eastern Uttar Pradesh. His daughter Sanghamitra is a BJP MP from UP.
Last year, another influential OBC face and BJP ally, Om Prakash Rajbhar, had crossed over to the Samajwadi Party.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically vital state, votes from February 10 in seven rounds in an election widely seen as a semifinal of sorts before the national election of 2024. The results will be declared on March 10.
By line: Divya Thearia