The battle-lines in Uttar Pradesh drawn, the BJP has managed to make peace with a small but crucial disgruntled ally in the state. Om Prakash Rajbhar, the chief of SBSP (Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party), has been giving a multitude of statements lately, all of which are critical and signal his disappointment with the ruling party. A week ago, he even stepped down from one of the ministerial portfolios he was holding in Yogi Adityanath's government.
BJP sources said Mr Rajbhar's concerns have now been resolved - following a marathon meeting with party chief Amit Shah in Delhi.
BJP sources say Mr Rajbhar has been promised a big bungalow in Lucknow for his party office and renewed development projects in his hometown Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Party sources also said another round of meetings will be held soon to finalise seat sharing for the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The SBSP did not win any seat in the Lok Sabha in the 2014 national elections. It struck an alliance with the BJP in 2016 and in the assembly elections next year, it did better, winning four seats.
But in the BJP's scheme of things, he has a vital role.
The SBSP claims a following among the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Castes - which makes it invaluable for the BJP, whose supporters mostly come from the upper castes. The backward classes account for 44 per cent of the state's electorate and most of them support the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav combine.
The SBSP also has a presence in eastern Uttar Pradesh - where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency Varanasi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's stronghold Gorakhpur are located.
The BJP-SBSP equation has gone downhill since the state assembly elections of 2017.
On multiple occasions, Mr Rajbhar publicly spoke out against the BJP and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, accusing them of ignoring his demands for development work in his area and sidelining him in political events involving the NDA.
Last week, Mr Rajbhar even quit the backward classes portfolio, alleging that his recommendations as a minister were being disregarded. His resignation was not accepted, but an effort by Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma to placate him also fell flat.
Days later, Mr Rajbhar threatened to leave the NDA and told the media that he was open to an alliance with Mayawati and the Samajwadi Party, triggering panic in the state BJP ranks. His party handed the BJP a deadline of February 24 and said it was ready to contest all 80 seats in the state if need be.
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