Having a considerable sway over various castes, over a dozen smaller parties in Uttar Pradesh are bargaining hard with mainline parties like the BJP and Samajwadi Party ahead of the crucial state polls early next year.
These caste-centric parties add heft to the bigger parties like the BJP, SP, BSP and Congress in the election as even a few thousand votes can make or mar chances of candidates.
In the 2017 state polls, as many as eight candidates of different parties had triumphed by a margin of less than 1000 votes, according to the Election Commission data.
The lowest victory margin was of 171 votes in Doomariyaganj, where the BJP’s Raghvendra Singh defeated BSP candidate Saiyada Khooton.
While the Samajwadi Party has said that its doors are open for smaller parties, the BJP is also trying to keep its alliance intact with them.
Congress leaders feel going it alone will help strengthen the party organisation.
Besides the Apna Dal (Sonelal), the BJP is eyeing the Nishad Party, JD (U), RPI and others including Bihar’s Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP) for an alliance.
However, seat-sharing has not been finalised.
While the Nishad Party has a considerable following among the ‘nishad’ (fishermen) community members, who are in sizeable numbers in around six Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, the Apna Dal (S) of Anupriya Patel has influence among the OBC Kurmi community.
In 2018, the SP had fielded Sanjay Nishad’s son Praveen as its candidate from the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat and stunned the BJP in bypolls after Yogi Adityanath, a five-term MP from the seat, vacated it on becoming an MLC in keeping with the constitutional obligation after being named the chief minister.
Subsequently, the BJP won the Nishad party over to its side in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, fielding Praveen Nishad on its symbol from Sant Kabir Nagar. He won and is currently a BJP MP.
In 2017, the BJP had tied up with Apna Dal (S) and Shuheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) led by Om Prakash Rajbhar keeping in mind their clout among Kurmis and extremely backward classes respectively.
The SBSP won four seats in the 2017 UP assembly elections when it contested an an ally of the BJP.
Rajbhar, who was a cabinet minister resigned before the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 and had also fielded its candidate on some seats.
The Rajbhars constitute 20 per cent of the Purvanchal population and are regarded as the second-most politically dominant community after the Yadavs in eastern UP.
Rajbhar has recently formed the Bhagadari Sankalp Morcha in which the AIMIM of Asaduddin Owaisi is also a part and announced to contest the 2022 assembly polls, saying the doors of the Morcha are open for the SP, BSP and Congress.
The AIMIM had recently announced that it would contest 100 seats in the state in alliance with the Rajbhar-led SBSP and the Morcha, a front of 10 smaller parties.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the SP and BSP had polled 21.82 per cent and 22.23 per cent votes respectively.
Together, both the parties had netted 44.05 per cent votes, higher than the BJP’s 39.67 per cent. However, the BJP walked away with 312 of the total 403 seats of the state assembly.
The SP, which had contested the polls in alliance with the Congress, could win 47 seats, while the BSP had managed to bag 19 seats.
The Congress ended with a decimated tally of seven seats out of the 105 it had contested.
In the 2012 assembly polls, over 200 registered parties had fielded their candidates, while in 2017 as many as 290 parties had jumped into the electoral battle in the country’s most populous state.
Going by the figures of 2017, the SBSP had contested on eight seats and won in four constituencies. It got 34.14 per cent votes on seats contested and 0.70 per cent on total seats.
Similarly the Apna Dal (S) contested on 11 seats and got 39.21 per cent on the contested seats and 0.98 per cent in total.
The Peace Party contested on 68 seats but did not register a win. It got 1.56 per cent votes on contested seats and 0.26 per cent on total seats.
The Samajwadi Party already has Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Mahan Dal and Janwadi Socialist party and some other smaller parties by its side.
The Mahan Dal, which has a support base among the Shakya, Saini, Maurya and Kushwaha communities, is expected to bring in votes of some of the most backward castes that constitute about 14 per cent of the overall OBC category, which itself makes for over 40 per cent of the state’s population.
The Janwadi Socialist party of Sanjay Singh Chauhan also draws strength from members of the Bind and Kashyap communities that area in sizeable numbers in over a dozen districts.
Both the Mahan Dal and Janwadi Socialist Party have taken out separate yatras in the state from Ballia and Pilibhit respectively with a vow to make Akhilesh Yadav as the next state chief minister.
Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) is also in trying to form a non-BJP alliance in the state.
“We are all geared up to contest the assembly polls,” the party’s spokesperson Deepak Mishra told PTI.
“We cannot disclose it now as things are in the pipeline. For alliance a lot including seat-sharing has to be decided.You can hear something from our side soon,” he said, adding talks are on with many parties.
When asked about the chances of aligning with the SP, Mishra said that it (SP) has not said no to us.
“We will bank on ‘gair-bhajpawad’ (non-BJP) stand,” he said.
Besides them, Chandra Shekhar Azad’s Azad Samaj Party (Kanshiram) is also entering the poll arena and is in talks with many smaller parties.
In 2017, there were 32 minor parties that secured votes between 5,000 and 50,000. There were six minor parties that secured above 50,000 votes, and six others secured above 1,00,000 votes.
The cumulative impact of these parties had spoiled the winning chances of mainstream parties in 56, seven and 231 constituencies in the 2017 Assembly polls, 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2012 Assembly elections, respectively.