In a jolt to the BJP in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya resigned from the state cabinet while three other MLAs announced they are quitting the party.
Maurya, who is expected to join the Samajwadi Party (SP), said he resigning from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet due to "gross neglect" towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders.
BJP Tindwari MLA Brajesh Prajapati, Tilhar MLA Roshan Lal Varma and Bilhaur MLA Bhagwati Sagar have announced they are leaving the party in support of Maurya.
There was no immediate word on the resignations being accepted.
On Twitter, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya urged the leader to reconsider his move.
"I don't know for what reasons respected Swami Prasad Maurya has tendered his resignation. I appeal to him to sit down for a talk. Decisions taken in a hurry often prove wrong," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
The SP tweeted a photograph of Swami Prasad Maurya and Varma with party chief Akhilesh Yadav, and said in Hindi, "Welcome to the Samajwadi Party. There will be a social justice revolution. There will be a change in 2022."
In his resignation letter addressed to Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Maurya said, "I discharged my responsibilities as the minister for labour, employment, and coordination in the council of ministers headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, despite adverse circumstances and ideology."
"Due to the attitude of gross neglect towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small and medium-sized traders, I am resigning from the Yogi ministry of Uttar Pradesh," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Maurya, who hails from the other backward class (OBC) community, had crossed over to the BJP from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before the 2017 assembly polls.
He is a five-time MLA from Padrauna, while his daughter Sanghmitra Maurya is a BJP MP and represents Badaun in the Lok Sabha.
In a tweet, Yadav said, "This time all the oppressed, downtrodden, neglected will unite against the BJP's insulting and divisive politics.
"There will be a revolution of SP's politics of giving respect to all. In 2022, with everyone meeting each other, there will be positive politics of 'mela hobe'. There will be a historic defeat of the BJP," he said.
The setback to the ruling party came on a day when a key BJP meeting to discuss the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, now just a month away, was taking place in Delhi.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya attended the meeting, as the party begins shortlisting its candidates.
The Uttar Pradesh polls will be held in seven phases -- on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and 7. The results will be declared on March 10 along with the four other poll-bound states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
Speaking to reporters here, Swami Prasad Maurya said, "I am a political person and I will be talking to some political party or the other. With whom I will talk, it will be done after consulting supporters."
Asked when was the first time felt he felt angry with the government, he said, "As soon as I felt angry, I tendered my resignation. I was upset with anti-Dalit, anti-backwards, anti-farmers, anti-youth attitude (of the BJP government). I always spoke at the relevant forum be it the government or the party leadership. I was heard, but it led to nothing."
Maurya's departure from the BJP is likely to damage the party's prospects in at least 20 seats spread across Kushinagar, Pratapgarh, Kanpur Dehat, Banda and Shahjahanpur.
BJP Tilhar MLA Varma, who had reached the Raj Bhavan here with the hard copy of Maurya's resignation, said, "I have resigned from the BJP, and I will be with Swami Prasad Maurya. When we used to raise the grievances of the people, we were not heard."
"We had complained to the chief minister and also to (the state BJP chief) Swatantra Dev Singh. But nothing happened. I will be joining the SP in the next couple of days," he said while speaking to PTI.
Varma said better than him, people know the reasons behind he leaving the BJP.
"There has been an increase in unemployment and the backward and most backward classes people have been ignored. We flagged their issues, but no one heard us. Only a handful of officials run this government. Cabinet Minister Suresh Khanna in Shahjahanpur had put hurdles in various works including development," he said.
This time, the SP is going to form a majority government in Uttar Pradesh, works of public interest will be done and respect will be given to everyone, Varma asserted.
Speaking to reporters at Maurya's residence, Sagar said he is with Swami Prasad Maurya.
"We will decide our future course of action and go where ever our interest is redressed and we get justice," he said.
When asked why he has taken the decision now when the assembly polls have been declared, Sagar said, "We were struggling for the past over four years. It is not the matter of getting party tickets for contesting polls, the decision is taken in the interest of our community."
BJP MLA from Tindwari, Prajapati, has sent a letter regarding he leaving the party to the state party president.
Meanwhile, another Uttar Pradesh Minister Dharam Singh Saini denied quitting the cabinet and the BJP.
"Swami Prasad Maurya ji remains an elder brother to me. I am hearing on TV channels that he has given my name among those joining the SP with him. There is no talk with him on this...I deny quitting the cabinet and the BJP," Saini, who is minister of state (independent charge) for Ayush, Food Security and Drug Administration, said in a video message.