Swami Prasad Maurya | Photo: ANI
It is not every day, a national political party's general secretary, who is also leader of the opposition in the Assembly (a minister-rank post) leaves the party. While it is still not clear whether Swamy Prasad Maurya left the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or the party dismissed him, his parting, to say the least, was unusual. However, this is not the first time, a BSP leader has left, accusing party president Mayawati of 'selling tickets'.
Maurya has been a four-term legislator from Padrauna, seat of Congress leader RPN Singh and his father CPN Singh. In eastern Uttar Pradesh, close to Gorakhpur, Padrauna is often in the news for political reasons. Maurya became MLA first from 1996 to 2002. From March to October 1997, he was a minister in the Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP)-supported Mayawati government.
From 2002 to 2003, he earned Mayawati's trust to return as minister in the BSP government. The breach came when the BSP lost a series of elections, first the Assembly election of 2012 when the Samajwadi Party came to power, and then the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the Dalit party didn't get a single seat.
That there was a rift was evident when Maurya was not invited to a meeting of top party leaders earlier this month. Last week, in a not-so-unexpected attack, Maurya said Mayawati was "selling tickets" for the coming Assembly election and announced he was quitting from the post of leader of opposition. "The party has become a marketplace for auctioneers. We needn't have lost the 2012 elections because the anti-incumbency factor was absent. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, candidates were decided on the basis of how much they could pay. Those who could pay were not necessarily the most popular. So, we lost that election as well," said Maurya.
Mayawati rarely holds press conferences. Usually, she only reads out a statement. But the hours after Maurya went public with the charges, BSP chief told, reporters she was open to questions. She said the party was planning to sack Maurya. "He has never managed to win elections for the party. All he wants is positions for his son and daughter. In 2012, he sought the Kushinagar seat for his son. We gave nominations to both his children. Both lost. My parents named me Maya: I am not short of money. Our party runs on contributions from workers. Please ask him how much money he contributed to the party? Samajwadi Party is the best place for him - he can only work in a party that believes in parivarvaad (family rule)," said Mayawati.
It's unclear what Maurya will do next. However, because the BJP has already announced that Keshav Prasad Maurya, will lead its state unit, the chances of Swamy Prasad Maurya joining BJP are slim. UP has around eight per cent Maurya and Kushwaha votes. If Swami Prasad Maurya joins the Samajwadi Party, it will be interesting to see if Maurya and Kushwaha votes get divided between the BSP, the BJP and the SP. For the moment, it seems a jolt for Mayawati.