The opposition alliance led by Samjawadi Party having decisively lost the battle for Uttar Pradesh, there is speculation now on whether the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief OP Rajbhar is leaning towards former partner BJP again.
The speculation started amid reports of his meeting with the BJP’s chief strategist Amit Shah. The buzz is that Mr Rajbhar met the top leadership of the BJP on Holi.
A purported photo of the meeting also surfaced on social media, which later turned out to be four years old.
Mr Rajbhar has denied that any meeting took place. “This is not true at all. I have not travelled out of Lucknow in many days. I am with the Samajwadi Party, will remain with them and also contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls as an ally,” he said in response to questions by journalists.
Mr Rajbhar’s SBSP has considerable influence among the Other Backward Classes in eastern Uttar Pradesh and he was part of the rainbow coalition stitched up by Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav ahead of the elections to supplement his party’s Yadav-Muslim support base.
The party won six seats in the recently concluded polls.
In 2017, Mr Rajbhar had contested the state polls as part of the NDA coalition. But he quit the alliance in 2019, in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections, complaining that he was being “ignored” by the BJP, specifically Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The party was upset that it was not given enough seats to contest in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
In April 2019, Mr Rajbhar had dramatically marched into the home of Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow at 3 am with his resignation letter and demanded to see him.
He left when told that the Chief Minister was sleeping.
While the BJP and its allies won a record two straight terms in Uttar Pradesh with 273 seats, the exit of Mr Rajbhar had meant a thinning of its OBC support base.
His return would strengthen the party in the crucial eastern Uttar Pradesh, where it won 68 out of 122 seats ahead of the 2024 general elections.