Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said Saturday that his political outfit – the Azad Samaj Party – would not ally with the Samajwadi Party for next month’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.
Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav “does not want the support of Dalits”, Mr Azad told reporters.
“Yesterday Akhileshji humiliated us… yesterday Akhileshji humiliated the bahujan samaj,” Chandrashekhar Azad said, a day after meeting the Samajwadi Party chief to discuss seat-sharing.
“In the end, I felt Akhileshji doesn’t want Dalit leaders in this alliance… he only wants Dalit votes. My fear was that if Dalits vote for him and he forms the government, we won’t be able to talk to him about our problems… if we’re beaten, if our lands are stolen and our women raped, like Hathras.”
Sources told NDTV Akhilesh Yadav offered the Azad Samaj Party three seats, but Chandrashekhar Azad was asking for 10 seats and a middle ground could not be established.
Later in the day Akhilesh Yadav hit back, saying he had offered seats to Chandrashekhar Azad but the offer had been turned down.
“He (Mr Azad) came to me yesterday (and) said he will contest. I gave Ghaziabad and Rampur Maniharan seats after talking to Lok Dal. Then he came, after talking to someone on the phone, and said he cannot fight… Whose phone was that? Who conspired?” he declared.
Mr Azad and Mr Yadav were understood to have a broad agreement in place to contest these polls together, with the Bhim Army chief likely to stand from his stronghold in Saharanpur.
“Akhileshji told us a month ago that we will fight the election together. I was here for two days to discuss our joint fight. I wanted to join with Akhileshji to stop the BJP, but he doesn’t want to give representation to the Dalits,” Mr Azad told NDTV.
“I will decide on my next steps in two days… there might be a third front ready soon,” he said.
In November Mr Azad told NDTV that he had decided to contest the UP election against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath; “I will not let Yogi win, no matter what happens,” he said.
“I will appeal to other opposition parties to also support me against Yogi… he has troubled the public for four-and-a-half years,” Chandrashekhar Azad said, adding (then) that he wanted an alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party because “we don’t want bahujan votes to be divided”.
Ahead of the UP election, Akhilesh Yadav has emerged as the biggest challenge to the ruling BJP.
Mr Yadav has spurned help from larger parties like the Congress and stitched together a “rainbow” alliance of regional outfits, such as Omprakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (which signed up with the Samajwadi Party last year) and Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal.
He has also poached BJP leaders with considerable influence over the OBC vote base, including (so far) two ministers in Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, who joined his party yesterday.
The BJP leaders’ resignation letters were identical in their claims that the BJP had ignored the development of backward classes and castes in the state.
In 2017 the BJP’s strategy was to win over the non-Yadav OBC castes given Mr Yadav’s most loyal voters are seen to be Yadavs and Muslims. This time round, the Samajwadi Party leader’s game-plan is to emulate the success by pulling in the non-Yadav OBC leaders.
Akhilesh Yadav told NDTV in November that a “pincer” movement of angry in the west and his “rainbow” alliance in the east would “wipe out the BJP” in this election.
UP will vote in seven phases from February 10, with results due exactly one month later – March 10.