Sanjay Nishad eyes bigger role in UP: ‘Informed Shah about community’s anger, expect a Cabinet portfolio’

Nishad told The Indian Express from the national Capital that he was expecting to meet Shah again on Saturday, and added that his community had been assured of a state Cabinet portfolio earlier.

A day after the leaders of the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the NISHAD Party met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, the latter’s chief, Sanjay Nishad, said it was his duty to alert his outfit’s ally about the “real situation” on the ground, and communicate in time the anger of his community of fishermen and boatsmen. Nishad also spoke of a Cabinet portfolio for his party.

Though the Apna Dal (Sonelal) refused to comment on the discussions between Shah and its leader and Mirzapur MP Anupriya Patel, describing it as a “courtesy visit”, sources said the party was also looking for a bigger role in the government before the elections and afterwards. There were also talks of another old alliance partner, the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, returning to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fold, but its leader Om Prakash Rajbhar has said the outfit won’t ally with the BJP.

Nishad told The Indian Express from the national Capital that he was expecting to meet Shah again on Saturday, and added that his community had been assured of a state Cabinet portfolio earlier. A failure to meet the promise now, with Assembly elections round the corner, would cost “his friend [BJP]” dearly, he warned.

“Friendship ka matlab ki apne mitra ko sahi baat bataya jaye aur sahi samaya rehte batayi jaye. Samay se samaj ke gusse ko pahuchana tha [The meaning of friendship is that the friend is told about things at the right time. As a friend, the need was to communicate the anger of the community timely],” said Nishad, the leader of the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (NISHAD) Party.

He added, “I have communicated that I will remain a friend, but if power is not given to the community then losses like those in the panchayat polls may occur as the community that had been voting between the SP [Samajwadi Party] and the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party], chose the BJP believing their promises. The community might reconsider it if those promises are not met.”

Asked what kind of power the community sought, Nishad said a Cabinet post was being discussed. He said the matter could not be pursued earlier because of the Covid-19 pandemic and added that the community needed an assurance now. He claimed officers would listen to his community only when it got a Cabinet minister.

While the Apna Dal (Sonelal) is crucial for the BJP’s electoral chances in the region surrounding Varanasi, the Lok Sabha seat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NISHAD Party is a significant player in the region around Gorakhpur, which was once represented in Parliament by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Sanjay Nishad’s son Praveen is the BJP MP from Sant Kabir

Nagar, and the party claims to have influence over almost 18 per cent of the community’s vote share, including fishermen and boatsmen.

Praveen first came into focus after defeating the BJP candidate in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-election. The by-poll had become necessary after Yogi Adityanath vacated it on being appointed the chief minister. Nishad was fielded by the SP with the support of the BSP. However, the NISHAD Party ditched the Opposition parties’ “mahagathbandhan [mega alliance]” and allied with the BJP, with Praveen joining the saffron party.

Sanjay Nishad told The Indian Express he would camp in Delhi till things were finalised. The veteran politician said he had been assured that he would soon be informed about what the BJP could do for his community.

He added, “I had shared issues being faced by the community in Uttar Pradesh and how the community is feeling restless. I was told that I would be soon told about what all could be done. I will camp here in Delhi till then.”

Meanwhile, as the Apna Dal (S) eyes a bigger role in the government, the faction of the party led by Anupriya’s sister Pallavi Patel met SP president Akhilesh Yadav. Neither the SP nor the Apna Dal agreed to discuss the nature of the talks.

The Apna Dal had inked an alliance with the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and Anupriya was even appointed Union minister in the first term. As the party fractured into two factions, differences cropped up between the Apna Dal (S) and the BJP before the 2019 parliamentary elections over seat-sharing.

The junior alliance partner, however, later agreed to contest two seats and won both.

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