The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has received a major jolt in Uttar Pradesh on the eve of the Assembly bye-elections on October 21, after its entire district unit of in Saharanpur joined the BJP.
In all, 24 BSP leaders have switched loyalties, including two-time former MLA Ravindra Molhu, present district president Rishi Pal Gautam, zonal coordinator Ashirwad Arya and Dharmender Singh, the president Gangoh Assembly constituency unit.
Senior BSP leaders have refused to comment on the development that took place on Wednesday evening.
State BSP president, Munkad Ali, when asked to comment, said, "I still have to find out what led to this exodus."
The joining took place in presence of BJP state chief Swatantra Dev Singh.
The Gangoh Assembly seat in Saharanpur district is scheduled to go to polls in less than three weeks.
Gangoh is one of the five assembly constituencies of Kairana Lok Sabha seat and falls in Saharanpur district. It is among 11 constituencies going for by-elections on October 21.
The by-poll was necessitated after the election of the constituency's MLA Pradeep Chaudhary to Lok Sabha from Kairana in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Former MLA Ravindra Molhu said: "I was getting suffocated in BSP. No one has the right to say anything and there is no one to whom a common party worker can air his opinion to.
"On the contrary, BJP has strong leadership, well-structured organization and taking the country in forward direction."
He was one of the contenders for the party ticket, but it has gone to Irshad Chaudhary.
"Resentment has been brewing steadily ever since Chaudhary was nominated by the party on September 14. Molhu was expecting the ticket and had worked hard for it.
"According to party tradition, anyone who is assembly or Lok Sabha constituency in-charge is given the election ticket. But this did not happen in case of Molhu, who was the constituency in charge for the past so many years said a party worker on condition of anonymity.
Irshad Chaudhary joined the BSP in 1996 and was district panchayat chairman between 2005 and 2010. He later joined the Samajwadi Party and returned to BSP two years ago.
Saharanpur has been a stronghold of the BSP with a strong Dalit population. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, its candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman -- supported by the SP -- had won by a margin of 23,000 votes. The BSP has since severed ties with the SP.
However, the exit of Molhu along with most of the party office-bearers just before Gangoh bypoll is likely to adversely hit its prospects.
BJP regional president for western UP, Ashwani Tyagi, meanwhile, said, "Inclusion of these BSP leaders is certainly a shot in the arm for the party and will strengthen us in Saharanpur in particular. It will certainly help us have smooth sailing in Gangoh."