At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is firefighting growing friction and hostilities with its partners elsewhere in the country, its relationship with its allies in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh seems to be heavily strained.
While the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) has been dissenting for some time, now the "trusted ally" Apna Dal has raised the banner of revolt and is looking for greener pastures. SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, the Minister for Disabled and Backward Welfare in the Yogi Adityanath government, has been vocal for long about his growing disenchantment with the BJP over myriad issues.
Last week, when he went to meet BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi, he was not only kept waiting for two days but also reportedly sent back empty-handed as his demands for implementing the recommendations of the Social Justice Commission on reservations for other backward castes and for contesting five Lok Sabha seats was "not even entertained".
Insiders say the party leadership is miffed that both the state and national leadership of the BJP has been "ignoring and humiliating" it. The SBSP chief wrote to Adityanath a few days ago saying he was "surrendering" his post as he was "unable to do justice to the portfolio". Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma was tasked with pacifying Rajbhar but with little success.
Informed sources say the SBSP was in touch with both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress, which is trying to cobble together an alliance with smaller regional parties for the Lok Sabha polls. Rajbhar could also join hands with Shivpal Singh Yadav's Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP). He has met Yadav thrice in the past two months, triggering speculation of their coming together.
"We have certain positive demands but the BJP is not paying heed," the SBSP chief told IANS, ruling that the 'gathbandhan dharma' was not being followed by the saffron camp. The SBSP has a following among the other backward castes and has four members in the Assembly.
The latest to join the dissatisfaction bandwagon is the Apna Dal, which has two Lok Sabha MPs from Uttar Pradesh and nine MLAs. Its leader Anupriya Patel is the Minister of State for Health in the Modi government. Crucial for the BJP in eastern UP, where it has a considerable say amongst the Patels, the party has now red-flagged its relations with the BJP, saying it was on its own now as the saffron party appeared "neither interested nor accommodative".
"We had given the BJP time till February 20 to respond to some issues raised by us but we have not heard from them yet," a senior office-bearer said.
Meanwhile, Anupriya Patel has met Congress general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia in a bid for a last-minute electoral understanding. Sources said the Grand Old Party was more than keen to accommodate Apna Dal as it could play a key role in eastern Uttar Pradesh.