Lucknow: Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar has said his party is prepared for the Lok Sabha polls and has sought five seats -- three in Uttar Pradesh and two in Bihar -- from alliance partner BJP for the general elections.
Speaking to PTI, Rajbhar also said the opposition INDIA bloc does not pose a "challenge" to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as its constituent parties keep fighting among themselves.
Asked about Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's statement that his party would contest from 65 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and leave the remainder for its allies, Rajbhar said, "He will contest all (seats). Akhileshji himself wants (Narendra) Modi to become prime minister again as, if the Congress becomes strong (in Uttar Pradesh), his party (Samajwadi Party) will weaken."
Taking a swipe at the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Rajbhar added, "Akhilesh (Yadav) always wants the BJP to remain strong. If it (BJP) is strong, he will use it to stoke fear among the Muslims so that they remain with the Samajwadi Party." Rajbhar, a former Uttar Pradesh minister, also hit out at Yadav over his PDA -- Pichhda, Dalit, Alpsankhyak -- strategy.
"It has no meaning. The Samajwadi Party got 'MY' (Mulsim-Yadav) votes and ran the (state) government several times. The Samajwadi Party took votes of the 'M' (Muslims) and gave benefits only to the 'Y' (Yadavs)," he said.
"Has any person from backward classes got jobs during the Samajwadi Party rule? Everyone knows what happened during the Samajwadi Party regime and who benefited," Rajbhar added.
The Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) contested the 2022 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in an alliance with the Samajwadi Party, winning six seats.
Later that year, the party backed Droupadi Murmu -- the NDA candidate for president -- while the Samajwadi Party supported Yashwant Sinha. The SBSP has since formally joined the NDA.
When asked about his party's preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as a BJP ally, Rajbhar told PTI, "Our people always remain on the ground. We are always prepared for elections." Rajbhar also dismissed the threat of the opposition INDIA bloc, saying, "It is not a challenge."
"You see the mental bankruptcy of opposition leaders is palpable in their statements," he said, citing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's controversial comments in the assembly on women.
The SBSP chief also claimed that he sees no difference between the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 and the upcoming elections in 2024.
With a strong support base among the OBC Rajbhar caste, the SBSP has a significant presence in eastern Uttar Pradesh and aims to contest a few Parliamentary seats in the contiguous areas of neighbouring Bihar.
On seat-sharing between the NDA partners for the 2024 elections, Rajbhar said, "We have sought three seats in Uttar Pradesh and two in Bihar from the BJP. Let's see what we get. Discussions on seat sharing are yet to be held."
The party is also laying groundwork in Bihar, Rajbhar said and added, "We are holding meetings in Katihar, Gopalganj and other areas. Party workers are strengthening our base due to which they have sought two seats in Bihar." The SBSP chief, however, refused to divulge details about the seats his party has sought in the two states and said, "Koi bhi seats de dein (They can give us any seats)."
In 2017, the SBSP contested the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in an alliance with the BJP and won four seats. Rajbhar was also made a minister during Yogi Adityanath's first term as chief minister.
However, the BJP and the SBSP parted ways ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Asked about getting a ministerial berth in the state after the SBSP formally rejoined the NDA, Rajbhar said, "It will materialise soon. BJP MLA Ashutosh Tandon died (on Thursday) this week … It will happen soon." The SBSP returned to the NDA fold in July after Rajbhar's meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Political circles in Uttar Pradesh have since been abuzz about Rajbhar's return to the Cabinet along with the induction of another OBC leader Dara Singh Chauhan.