A key ally of Akhilesh Yadav, who jibed that the Samajwadi Party leader had grown "too used to AC rooms", today insisted that he would not quit the alliance he made before the Uttar Pradesh election two months ago.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, who heads the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) that won six seats in the Uttar Pradesh election, made the comments at a party meeting on Sunday.
The former UP minister, however, denied speculation that he was on the verge of breaking up with Akhilesh Yadav. On being reminded of his declaration that he would stay in the alliance "marte dum tak (till his last breath)", he said: "Of course, I am 100 per cent firm on that."
He added: "The alliance stands, the alliance will continue and in the 2024 general election, we will contest together."
As for Akhilesh Yadav, Mr Rajbhar remarked, "Akhilesh kaise nahin niklenge? Hum nikalenge. (I will drag him out of the AC room if needed)."
He said the Samajwadi Party leader had to step out and go to the people and it was something that even his own party colleagues felt.
"I told Akhilesh Yadav four or five times...we went to the people with our message (in the state polls) and we won 125 seats. We must go again to the people and talk about roti, kapda, makan and davai (food, clothes, houses and medicine)," Mr Rajbhar said.
On his claim that Samajwadi workers came to him and complained about their chief staying within AC rooms, Mr Rajbhar said: "SP leaders are unable to meet their own leader because of the crowds around him, so they come to me. It is a huge party with many leaders. All I am saying is that the BSP leader (Mayawati) and Congress leaders from Delhi did not come out of their AC rooms and paid for it. If we don't step out of our rooms, we will also suffer."
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 March, right after the Samajwadi Party's defeat in UP, there was speculation about Mr Rajbhar leaning towards his former partner BJP again. His meeting with BJP's chief strategist Amit Shah reinforced the buzz.
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.
In 2017, Mr Rajbhar had contested the state polls as part of the BJP-led 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.