Hours after Maurya quit, claiming that about a dozen more BJP MLAs would also quit, the party’s MLA from Tindwari in Banda, Brijesh Kumar Prajapati, three-time MLA Roshanlal Verma who represents Tilhar constituency in Shahjahanpur and has won the elections thrice – in 2007, 2012 and 2017 – and Bilhaur legislator Bhagwati Sagar also resigned from the primary membership of the party. All of them are expected to join the SP soon.
There was also buzz of Vinay Shakya from Bidhuna assembly seat in Auraiya tendering his resignation.
While Maurya, a prominent BSP face who crossed over in 2017 and whose daughter Sanghmitra Maurya is a BJP MP, did not disclose if he had resigned from the BJP as well, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted an undated photograph of him with Maurya, saying, “We welcome the leader of social justice and equality in the SP.”
Sources close to Maurya, an MLA from Padrauna, said he was expected to formally join the SP later this week. The development, significantly, came on a day when the top BJP brass met in New Delhi to finalize the names of party candidates for the upcoming state polls.
Maurya’s defection to the SP camp could potentially lend a shot in the arm of Akhilesh Yadav, who has been positioning himself as the most potent rival of the BJP in the forthcoming state elections, and help his effort to undercut the perception about the SP essentially being a Yadav-Muslim enterprise.
Maurya, Prajapati and Verma belong to the politically significant non-Yadav OBC category — a big factor in BJP’s spectacular wins in last assembly polls as well as the LS contests of 2014 and 2019. Sagar is a dalit, who, like Maurya, started his political journey with the BSP and became MLA thrice and a minister twice. He quit the BSP just before 2017 polls and successfully contested from Bilhaur on a BJP ticket.
In his resignation sent to UP governor Anandiben Patel, Maurya categorically accused the state government of “gross negligence” towards dalits, backward classes, farmers, youth and small investors and gave this as the reason behind his decision.
Prajapati, in his resignation letter sent to BJP national president JP Nadda, also levelled the same charge, saying that the Yogi government’s apathy towards backward castes, dalits, Muslims and small traders has compelled him to take the decision.
Prajapati, himself from the potter sub-caste within the MBC bloc, said that he stood in solidarity with Maurya who is the “voice of the oppressed”.
The development also set the speculation mills whirling about a few more BJP MLAs being in touch with the SP leadership. This also included Tilhar MLA Roshan Lal Verma who took Maurya’s resignation to the Raj Bhawan.
Banking on farmers’ issues and helped by the saffron wave, Verma had defeated Jitin Prasada by 5,700 votes from Tilhar constituency in 2017. The defeat of Prasada, who was in Congress then and was contesting on a SP-Congress alliance, was a shock for everyone as it was his first defeat in any election in his home district of Shahjahanpur.
In 2021, Prasada joined BJP and was promoted as UP’s minister of technical education. Prasada’s switching over to the saffron camp seemed to have played a role in Verma’s decision and he referred to that.
“I have resigned from the BJP and will be contesting on a SP ticket. The decision was not taken in a day as I had joined the BJP to serve the poor, but the saffron party has neglected farmers, Dalits and those from the Backward Classes. It never hesitated from exploiting the poor. When I was with the BJP, I took up these issues with CM Yogi Adityanath many a time, but was always ignored as an influential party leader from Shahjahanpur played down these issues.”
While BJP leaders refused to comment on the resignation of Verma, SP’s district president for Shahjahanpur, Tanveer Khan, told TOI, “Roshanlal Verma is connected to the roots and such leaders are always welcome in the party. Our primary aim is to uplift the poor and address their issues and make their lives better. The decision of ticket distribution will be taken by the party leadership and tickets are expected to be announced on January 12.”