General elections 2019: Om Prakash Rajbhar has fielded SBSP candidates against BJP in eastern UP
Om Prakash Rajbhar, whose SBSP is an alliance partner of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, has declared contestants from his party for 39 seats in eastern UP, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency Varanasi. These candidates will fight separately and against the BJP on the seats, Mr Rajbhar told reporters in Lucknow.
"This is a right for our existence. The BJP top brass doesn't listen to allies. I am not greedy for power and even tried to resign, but it was not accepted," Mr Rajbhar told NDTV.
However, it is not clear if this meant an end of ties between the BJP and Mr Rajbhar's Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. The eastern UP leader has not called off the alliance with the BJP, leading to speculation that this could be another round of posturing.
"Our situation seems to be like the one between the Shiv Sena and the BJP. They have their problems and have reached a breaking point, but are hanging on. But I don't know for how long," Mr Rajbhar said.
On Sunday, a furious Mr Rajbhar had walked into Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's home in Lucknow at 3 am with his resignation letter and demanded to see him. He left when told that the chief minister was sleeping.
Mr Rajbhar was placated in the months before the election and stopped from ending his ties with the ruling party. He and his party are reportedly angry with the BJP for not giving them enough seats to contest in eastern UP, the party's area of influence.
Mr Rajbhar's party was reportedly angling for as many as five Lok Sabha seats in eastern UP from the BJP. He said he had at least two meetings with BJP chief Amit Shah in the last few months.
Sources say the BJP was unwilling to concede five seats, so talks finally centered on the SBSP contesting from two eastern UP seats. But even this was red-flagged by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who told Mr Rajbhar to settle for one seat – Ghosi – and put up a candidate who would fight on the BJP symbol.
Mr Rajbhar told reporters in Ballia that he was "so angry" that he went to the chief minister's home at 3 am on Sunday. "The CM was sleeping. The officer on duty at the residence told me to come in the morning. In the morning, I tried to get in touch with the CM but he was just not available," Mr Rajbhar said.
"I have tried to explain to everyone including Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath that we are an ally. If we don't fight one or two seats at least, what will I tell our voters? But they kept on asking me to fight the elections on a BJP symbol. Ultimately, I told them to give only one seat but on our own symbol. But they refused to listen to me," the leader complained.
The BJP had tied up with Mr Rajbhar's party in the lead up to the 2017 assembly election in UP. The SBSP contested eight seats and won four. Mr Rajbhar was made a cabinet minister in the UP government. But just months down the line, Mr Rajbhar started accusing the Yogi Adityanath government of neglecting and sidelining his party. Mr Rajbhar also famously sat on a dharna outside the office of the district magistrate in Ghazipur, his home district. He told the media government officials refused to listen to his demands for work in the area.
Several times, Mr Rajbhar threatened to quit the BJP-led NDA in Uttar Pradesh or resign as minister. Those have remained just threats.
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