As elections approach, party turncoats bloom in UP
The approaching assembly election has hastened the realignment of political forces in Uttar Pradesh. All major parties are out to poach leaders from rival camps.
The idea is to send out a "message" that the electoral winds are blowing in their favour that's why rival leaders are lining up to join their ranks.
First, the ruling Samajwadi Party lured away Kunjalika Sharma from the BJP. It was a big catch: Kunjalika, the daughter of Hindi poet Gopal Das Neeraj, held a key position in the Agra unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She has also served as a BJP councillor in the city.
Kunjalika was recently in the news for sharing the stage at a condolence meeting where Union minister Ram Shankar Katheria made a hate speech against the Muslims.
Welcoming Kunjalika to the fold at a press briefing in Lucknow, the SP's state chief Shivpal Singh Yadav announced that she would be the party's candidate from Agra North. At the briefing, Yadav also announced that Allahabad University Students Union president Richa Singh had joined the party. Richa has been daggers drawn with the BJP's students wing ABVP since she banned Yogi Adityanath from the campus.
Refusing to take the raid on its camp lying down, the BJP retaliated the very next day, bringing in Hemlata Diwakar. She was the candidate of the ruling party from Agra Rural.
The switching of allegiances by politicians is only going to increase as the polls draw closer. Who will be the likely turncoats? Mostly, they are either marginalised in their parties or see better chances of career progression, or just material benefit, in shifting sides.
It's not possible for any major party to satisfy all its ticket aspirants. So, invariably, there are always dissidents looking for better avenues come elections.
The Lambhua constituency in Sultanpur district offered a glaring example of this political opportunism during the 2012 polls. The SP had declared most of its candidates a year in advance. Yet in Lambhua, it was forced to change the nominee as many as seven times as one after the other changed affiliations.
Taking away leaders from rival camps is a psychological battle every party wages, particularly in an election season. But often, it is the ruling party that is most affected by these games, especially in the case of UP. Indeed, many analysts see the recent switching of sides by politicians as highlighting the "unrest within the SP".
On the lookout
Seeking to gain early advantage, the ruling party announced candidates on 143 seats it had lost in 2012 nearly a year before the election. However, the plan came undone as party workers at several places revolted. In Saharanpur, the party was forced to withdraw the nomination of Shahnawaz Rana within hours. Rana has since joined the BJP.
Rebellions also broke out in Varanasi, Fatehpur, Banda, Maharajganj and Basti, forcing the party to change candidates in Banda, Ayah Shah, Khaga, Bindki and Paniyara. The rebellions are simmering in several other districts as well.
If this was not worrying enough, the ruling party now has to keep a close eye on its candidates as well after the BJP took away Hemlata Diwakar. The party leadership is reportedly "making all efforts to prevent such embarrassment in the future".
According to sources in the SP, the party's election managers are "closely monitoring" the activities of many of its nominees, including Rita Prajapati, Ayah Shah; Vinod Paswan, Khaga; Kamal Singh Maurya, Banda; Ravindra Bahadur Patel, Madihan; Uma Shankar Patwa, Basti; Roli Mishra, Agra South; Suman Ojha, Paniyara; and Kunjalika Sharma, Agra North.
"We are finalising candidates based on report cards from their respective constituencies. The candidates who have been replaced lacked good track records," said Shivpal Yadav. "You can expect some more changes."