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Small parties in big demand in runup to UP assembly polls

In the run-up to Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the big political parties in the state are seen accommodating the issues being brought forward by the smaller ones with an eye on winning the support of some caste groups that they have sway over.

In the upcoming cabinet expansion of the Adityanath government, Sanjay Nishad of Nishad Party and Ashish Patel of Apna Dal are likely to get a cabinet position, people aware of the matter told ET. Both are allies of the BJP.

While Apna Dal contests on its symbol, Nishad Party’s Praveen Nishad is a parliamentarian on BJP’s ticket. His father, Sanjay Nishad, had met home minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda on a few occasions in Delhi, and now he has extended full support to the BJP before the Assembly polls.

“Before the formation of Nishad Party in 2016, Nishads who account for 18% of the population in the state, were just a pawn in the political battle of bigger parties,” Sanjay Nishad told ET. “But now our community is politically more aware, and our issues are taken seriously by the bigger parties.”

The fact that the BJP is willing to make him a minister proves that the party wants to keep the community together. Nishad claims that in the 2018 bypoll, he was with the SP, and his son, Praveen Nishad, won from the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat. When he joined the NDA, the seat went back to the BJP in 2019.

The only identity of these parties is their caste in the most backward lot. “It is true that we are a small party, and we appeal to a section of the society. Alone, we may not be able to win. But if we join a bigger party, our presence fills the gap between winning and losing on almost 100 seats,” Keshav Dev Maurya, president of Mahan Dal told ET. Mahan Dal is a party of Maurya, Kushwaha, Sakya and Saini and has a presence in Rohilkhand region of the state.

These parties prefer to contest on bigger party symbols as they don’t have a fixed symbol approved by the Election Commission.

“Bigger parties run their campaigns all the time, because they have a fixed symbol and people recognise them. We are allotted a symbol during the election and that doesn’t become an identity during election,” Maurya said.

Sanjay Chauhan of Janwadi Party (Socialist), another SP ally, said that before the formation of the party, his community of Nonia-Beldar Chauhan was not politically aware. He accepted that his community voted for the BJP despite his efforts.

“They will tell me till 2019 that if I vote for you, BJP will lose. But now things have changed. Our community members know that there is no representation of our community in the BJP government,” he said.

He claimed that his community, with 2-3% votes, can add around 10,000 votes in 150 assembly constituencies to SP.

There are others like OP Rajbhar of Suheldev Bharat Samaj Party, Krishna Patel of Apna Dal (Krishna Patel group), and Chandra Shekhar Azad of Azad Samaj Party, who are yet to take a call on joining any alliance.