New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections 2022, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered a massive setback after three of its state ministers and six MLAs resigned from the party in less than a week, giving hints that they might join the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party.

Among those who have resigned are Swami Prasad Maurya, Dharam Singh Saini and Dara Singh Chauhan. Saini earlier had refuted the reports of his resignation but on Thursday gave his official resignation.

In his resignation letter, Saini, who also belongs to the OBC community, cited the Uttar Pradesh government's "lack of respect" towards backward classes and Dalits as the reason behind his decision.

Later, he also met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and claimed that more BJP MLAs and ministers might resign from their positions in the coming days.

"I have resigned because for 5 years Dalits, backward classes were suppressed, their voices were suppressed... We will do whatever Swami Prasad Maurya will say. One minister and 3 to 4 MLAs will resign every day till January 20," Saini was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Similar reasons were also cited by Maurya and Chauhan behind their decision to leave the party. Maurya, who is also a strong OBC leader in the region, had accused the BJP government of a "grossly neglectful attitude towards Dalits, backward classes, farmers, unemployed youth and small and medium businesspersons."

Maurya is a five-time MLA who was the minister of labour, employment, and coordination in the Uttar Pradesh government. He had also served as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Uttar Pradesh assembly till 2016 and held several key positions in Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Maurya is considered to be the second biggest non-Yadav OBC face in the BJP in Uttar Pradesh after Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and his resignations, along with that of Saini and Chauhan, are expected to significantly impact the saffron party's perspectives in the 2022 polls.

The OBCs and the Yadavs make up nearly 35-37 and 10-12 per cent of voters in Uttar Pradesh, respectively, and have been generally supportive of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. However, this changed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP swept the polls thanks to the Modi wave.

The Nonia (OBC) community was a massive vote bank for the BJP in 2014. It should be noted that Chauhan comes from the Nonia community. Like Maurya, Chauhan had also switched to the BJP from the BSP ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

Chauhan, as per experts, played a crucial role in BJP's win in 2017 that helped in getting a berth in the Yogi cabinet.

However, some experts suggest that the resignations of Chauhan, Maurya and Saini might not impact the BJP and their losses "are merely a matter of perception".

"The BJP could suffer a loss in terms of perception, but on the ground the loss may not be significant — because the BJP also has tall leaders like Keshav Prasad Maurya and has the Apna Dal as its ally," political commentator Badri Narayan told The Print.

The BJP also remains confident that the resignation will not impact its prospects in the upcoming polls. On Thursday, the Nishad Party also came in the defence of the BJP and slammed the ministers in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet who resigned from their position ahead of the assembly polls.

"When the Election commission issues the Model Code of Conduct, there is no minister or MLA. It is their responsibility to be amongst the public and win the election once again. They did not say anything for five years, the BJP was not bad then. Now when you have to go to the public and seek their support, then you are accusing the party. That means you have nothing to show for," Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad told news agency ANI.

Elections for the 403 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases starting February 10, the Election Commission said. The polling in Uttar Pradesh will be held on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27 and March 3 and 7 in seven phases.

The counting of votes will take place on March 10.

Posted By: Subhasish Dutta