NEW DELHI: In a major setback to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), its two-term MP and upper-caste leader Brajesh Pathak on Monday joined the BJP, ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Pathak is the second high profile BSP leader to join the BJP. Earlier, leader of opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Swami Prasad Maurya, had switched sides.
As the BSP is seen as a strong contender in the Uttar Pradesh elections, desertion of some of the leaders could prove costly for it. On the other hand, the BJP is looking at disgruntled leaders in other parties who can be welcomed into the party fold ahead of the elections. Pathak joining the BJP will help it consolidate the Brahmin votes.
Pathak joined the BJP in the presence of its president Amit Shah and Union minister Mahesh Sharma and was described as a “pillar” in the Hardoi-Unnao region of the State.
While he was at the BJP headquarters fulfilling his joining formalities, the BSP expelled him, apparently after coming to know about his plans.
Interestingly, he was present in Sunday’s BSP rally in Agra and joined the BJP is less than 24 hours. Pathak said he did his job in the BSP as long as he was a part of it. Launching her party’s election campaign, Mayawati warned people against the BJP’s “communal design” and accused the SP government of “encouraging mafias”. She accused the Narendra Modi government at the Centre of being “anti-Dalit” and raising issues of cow slaughter and “love jihad” to keep minorities “under fear”.
Unlike other BSP leaders who tore into party chief Mayawati when they joined the BJP, Pathak did not attack her but said nepotism, corruption and goondaism ruled the roost in the state.“I thought any delay will be harmful. Only Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental agenda and Amit Shah’s efforts can rescue Uttar Pradesh” he said.
Pathak also claimed that he had played a role in swinging Brahmin votes in favour of the BSP during the 2007 Assembly polls, though they were disappointed by the party. The BJP is counting on the former Unnao Lok Sabha MP and now a sitting Rajya Sabha member, to help it win over Brahmin voters, who are also being wooed by the Congress.