Uttar Pradesh BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh spoke to Outlook about the party’s outreach to the OBC (Other Backward Community) and why he thinks the community will vote for the party in the upcoming Assembly election. Excerpts..
Q) Assembly elections are only a few months away. There is a scramble for OBC votes, which accounts for 42 percent of the state’s population. According to surveys, the OBC community has favoured BJP in 2017 assembly polls. Do you think that the party will be able to retain the OBC vote bank this time?
The OBC community is firmly rallied behind the BJP. They have overwhelmingly voted for BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections and 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections too. Even today, they are with the BJP. The reason is that the entire community are the beneficiaries of various schemes implemented by the BJP governments at the state and the centre. The Dalits and the most backward got due benefits under the Yogi Adityanath government. The PM schemes have instilled hope and confidence among backward communities. PM Modi also belongs to the OBC community, that’s one of the reasons that the backward community is also solidly behind us. OBCs were in dire straits when Samajwadi Party (SP) government was in power. The SP government played caste and communal politics and the government schemes didn’t reach the most backward communities at all. However, the BJP governments ensured that the benefits reached the last man.
Q) There is growing clamour for conducting caste census to count the population of OBCs in order to address levels of deprivation. The demand has come from BJP MPs also. NDA allies Apna Dal and JD (U) are vociferous about it.
The central government has to take a call on conducting the caste census. The decision will come at an appropriate time.
Q) BJP is having an OBC meet in Ayodhya on September 18. Is it an attempt to consolidate the OBC votes?
BJP’s OBC Morcha has been holding zone-wise meetings –‘pichara Varga Sammelans’— in many places. It’s state working committee meeting will be held in Ayodhya on September 18. It is an important meeting, where the party will decide the strategy for 2022 Assembly elections. We will decide the roadmap for the election. More conventions and campaigns will be planned in the run up to the election. On the birth anniversary of Deendayal Upadhyaya on September 25, the party will convene meetings across the state.
Q) Your former ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar holds considerable influence among the Rajbhar community. He is planning to campaign against the BJP in the elections. Will it cast a shadow on BJP’s prospects? You have met him recently.
Yes, I have met him recently and had discussions. Just because Om Prakash Rajbar broke alliance with BJP, the community is not going to vote against us. Entire backward community is with us. The BJP has ensured development and law and order in the state. The backward classes are the most oppressed group in the society. Now they feel safe under BJP rule. They are no longer being harassed by miscreants.
Q) Will the farmers’ ‘Mahapanchayat’ in Muzzafarnagar have any electoral fallout?
It won’t have any impact on BJP’s poll prospects. Earlier also, the farmers have conducted ‘mahapanchayat’ before the panchayat elections. But the results were in favour of the BJP. All the participants in the protests are not going to vote against BJP. The farmers have no clear-cut reason for their protests against the farm laws. The farmers in western UP have benefitted by Yogi government’s policies in a big way.