A key ally of Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has reportedly said that the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had grown accustomed to air conditioners and needs to step out and meet people more often.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, who heads the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) that won six seats in the recently held Uttar Pradesh state election, made the comments at a meeting of his party in eastern UP on Sunday, news agency PTI reported.
"Akhilesh Yadav has become too used to air-conditioned rooms," the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief reportedly said, addressing his party workers. Mr Rajbhar did not deny the comments when questioned by reporters after the meeting. "He should go out and tour different areas and meet with his party workers and leaders, this is what I meant to say. I will go to Lucknow and ensure he comes out", Mr Rajbhar said.
The BJP used Mr Rajbhar's comments to criticise the Samajwadi Party chief. A tweet by BJP's Shehzad Poonawala said, "SP Ally OP Rajbhar says Akhilesh Yadav is too used to AC & isn't hitting the streets..Well "family first" parties usually spend 4.5 years in foreign tour/AC/vacation/ party mode. The last 6 months before the election they go into campaign mode. Right now Babua is in Vacation Mode."
In March, right after the Samajwadi Party's loss in the state election, there was speculation about Mr Rajbhar leaning towards former partner BJP again. It 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.
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.
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.