Polls near, SP starts a new wing for SCs — led by ex-BSP veteran

For the first time since the party was set up in 1992, it has formed a dedicated wing for Scheduled Castes (SCs): Samajwadi Baba Saheb Ambedkar Vahini

THE BJP has started wooing OBCs and SCs with targeted sammelans across UP. The BSP has been holding meetings of the Brahmin community and appealing for “bhaichara” (brotherhood) with SCs. Not to be left behind, with state elections just months away, the SP too has joined the queue.

For the first time since the party was set up in 1992, it has formed a dedicated wing for Scheduled Castes (SCs): Samajwadi Baba Saheb Ambedkar Vahini.

And in what its own leaders claim is a masterstroke, the party has appointed a Dalit leader who was with the BSP for 29 years to head this new wing.

“We have to take the ideologies of Bhimrao Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia along. We have to make deprived and oppressed sections aware of the ideologies of both leaders and their contribution to society,” says Mithai Lal
Bharti, the man at the helm of the wing who switched sides two years ago.

“In view of the 2022 polls, our office bearers will reach out to Dalits and other deprived sections, and appeal to them to support the Samajwadi Party and remove the BJP from power. The BJP is anti-reservation and anti-Constitution,” he says.

Before joining SP in September 2019, Bharti had worked with BSP for 29 years and served as its Ballia district president, Purvanchal region coordinator and Bihar and Chhattisgarh in-charge.

Bharti, 48, says he is a post-graduate in Hindi from Purvanchal University. But what he really treasures from those days is an opportunity to serve a meal to Kanshiram when the BSP founder had visited his hometown Ballia in 1997-1998.

The SP, meanwhile, has high expectations from the new wing — until now, the party had dedicated wings for OBCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), minorities, women and other sections.

“There was no separate wing for Scheduled Castes. There were demands from within the party and some student leaders to create such a wing to work exclusively among Dalits, speak about their concerns and raise a voice for their rights. Party national president Akhilesh Yadav ji had made an announcement about it much earlier but a separate Vahini has been formed now,” said Juhi Singh, SP state spokesperson.

Bharti says his first task is to set up organisational units from the national to state, district, sector and polling booth levels. “I have already started holding ‘samvidhan bachao-loktantra bachao’ conventions,” he says.

In the past, SP did not have a dedicated programme for Dalit voters in the state. The party’s strength has always been the support of the Yadav community among OBCs and Muslims. But with around 23 per cent of vote share in the state, the SCs have played a significant role in UP politics.

In the 2012 assembly polls, when the SP won a majority of 224 seats, it had bagged 58 reserved seats for SCs followed by BSP (15), Congress (four), and RLD and BJP (three).

In 2017, the SP could get only five SC-reserved seats as the BJP recorded a thumping victory that included 67 reserved seats, apart from three such seats each for BSP, and NDA allies Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party.

According to SP’s Scheduled Tribes cell chief Vyasji Gour, his wing was working for both STs and SCs until now. “But the tribal population is confined to limited areas. So the party has created a separate wing for SCs considering their larger population in the state,” he said.

According to political observers, the new frontal organisation appears to be an attempt by SP to build inroads among BSP’s Dalit vote base given how their 2019 alliance airbrushed the bitter memories of 1995.

After the Babri demolition in 1992, the newly formed SP under Mulayam Singh Yadav and the fledgling BSP had allied to bring their OBC and Dalit core vote bases together to prevent the BJP from returning to power in the assembly elections.

However, both the parties and eventually their core voters — Yadavs and Jatavs — became bitter rivals after the infamous Lucknow guesthouse incident of 1995 when SP workers allegedly tried to assault BSP’s Mayawati after she pulled the rug from under the then Mulayam government.

In 2019, the two parties joined hands again to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s electoral appeal in the state. Unlike last time, both parties parted ways amicably after this alliance failed.

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