Out of 403, 160 seats are Nishad-dominated, where we have the responsibility to ensure NDA victory, says Sanjay Nishad, MLC from U.P.
Self-anointed “political godfather of fishermen” community, Sanjay Nishad is an MLC in Uttar Pradesh and president of the Nirbal Indian Soshit Hamara Apna Dal (known as the Nishad Party), which claims to rally together the numerically significant riverine most-backward communities. In 2018, the Nishad Party collaborated with the SP and the BSP to defeat the BJP in two key seats — Gorakhpur and Phulpur — in the Lok Sabha byelections. A year later, the party announced an alliance with the two parties but three days later Mr. Nishad dumped them and switched over to the BJP, also abandoning the ‘85 vs 15’ (Bahujan vs Upper Castes) narrative, claiming that his caste icon Nishadraj and Lord Ram had a ‘natural alliance.’ In other words, the BJP and the Nishad Party were natural allies cemented by shared Hindutva. After Om Prakash Rajbhar’s exit from the NDA and recent shift to the SP, Mr. Nishad has acquired significance as his ally BJP tries to preserve its backward caste support base in 2022 polls. Excerpts from an interview in Lucknow:
Is your seat arrangement with the BJP done?
When there is an arrangement of hearts and where ideologies of two parties match, seats are small matter. Let’s focus on the victory. This is the milan of one sanskriti, to bring back Ram Rajya and make India a ‘sone ki chidiya’ again.
How many seats can the Nishad Party influence?
(Out of 403) 160 seats are Nishad-dominated, where we have the responsibility to ensure the NDA victory. In 70 seats, many (of our opponents) will forfeit deposits.
You say there is a natural alliance between Ram and Nishadraj (boatman who ferried Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakhsman across the Ganga as per Hindu belief). And that the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet will not be complete without Nishadraj, meaning Nishads. Is the Nishad support really that crucial for the BJP?
Definitely it is. You would have seen that in the 2018 election, we delivered a historic win. And in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections we united our vote bank. Nishads are an important vote bank, a community that is most and extremely backward and doesn’t have any constitutional security. They are close to Lord Ram. When Lord Ram and Nishadraj had embraced, only then peace had come. Ram had gone alone but the sena of Nishadraj got him victory in Lanka. Ram Rajya arrived when Nishadraj was added to the ‘cabinet’ of Ram. Several governments came but none could build the Ram Mandir. It would always get entangled. But when the Nishad Party arrived in 2019, and helped the BJP get 40 seats and a historic majority, then without any bloodshed (the Mandir issue was peacefully resolved) …. Now even Muslims are offering notes for the construction of the mandir. Peace is apparent.
The BJP is promoting cultural icons of Nishads. Is this relationship the merger of Hindutva and OBC politics?
Everybody took our votes. But did anyone talk of the Nishadraj fort? All leaders of the Nishad community like Jamuna Prasad and Phoolan Devi were killed so that a vote bank was used for forming government but no leader was allowed to emerge from them. But today the BJP has made Dr. Sanjay Nishad a leader, sent Praveen Nishad (his son) to the Lok Sabha and me to the Legislative Council. A statue of Lord Ram and Nishadraj in an embrace is being built at the Nishadaj fort (in Prayagraj). A Nishadraj park was declared a tourist site. It is a big thing if any party promotes our history, culture and heritage. The BJP is doing that. All others destroyed our history. Nishads are not just Ram bhakts but also desh bhakts who got India freedom.
By forging an alliance with most-backward caste leaders like Om Prakash Rajbhar, SP president Akhilesh Yadav is trying to bridge gaps between Yadavs and non-Yadav OBCs. Will this hurt your ally BJP?
There won’t be any loss because Mr. Rajbhar himself has gone door-to-door with papers in his hand telling people that the 27% OBC reservation has been captured by one baradari, according to the social justice committee. When he is already saying that the SP people have a hold on their jobs and share, how will these baradaris (non-Yadav OBCs) press the SP button? Under the BJP, there has been fairness in recruitment for the first time and without any discrimination. Of my own community, around 21 officials have been recruited as CO, SDM, tehisldar and BDO. This happened for the first time. Earlier, not a single person from us would be visible. Not a single Rajbhar would be seen in a thana. Who did recruitments last 30 years? Not the BJP, but them (the SP and the BSP). Mr. Rajbhar has already told his community where to vote — repeatedly told them not to press the cycle or elephant buttons. So why will they now vote for cycle?
Opposition says the BJP uses OBC votes but doesn’t actually work for their real interests.
Who had power for 70 years? The BJP has ruled for seven years. Who used them in 70 years? For the last 30 years the SP, the BSP were running the governments, so which OBC got their share and which law was made by the SP? The SP carried out dacoity in the name of OBCs and we have a Daluat ki Beti in the name of Dalits. It is due to their failure that people of all communities have awakened and formed cadres. They will no longer fall for their tricks. For 30 years the Central Government was working on the SP and the BSP support. Name one IAS from the Nishad community or a Rajbhar DM, or Teli, Lohar, Pal or Gadaria. All these communities have understood that in the name of pichda, they (the SP and the BSP) were promoting their own people.
Do you say the gap between Yadav and non-Yadav OBCs will not be filled by the SP, the BSP or the SP alliance with Mr. Rajbhar?
For 30 years these people would say ‘hathi lao, cycle badlo, cycle lao’ but when Dr. Sanjay started his cadre, they came to their senses and realised that they will no longer get kicked around. Earlier, they (MBC voters) would be provided with a pauva (pouch of liquor) and for five days someone would speak to them sweetly and feed them. And then through their vote they (the SP and the BSP) would rule for five years and recruit inspectors from their own community. In the BSP and the SP they can only shout Jai Bhim and Jai Samajwad but cannot speak out. Thanks to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (Chief Minister) Yogi (Adityanath) they have kept leaders of all jatis with them, formed morchas and cells (for different castes). Brother, be an advocate for your caste. We were oppressed for 70 years. They (the SP and the BSP) looted for 30 years in the name of OBC and Dalit. In desperation, they are looking for another opportunity. But after 2018 they squandered their chance. They made it clear they want neta but not neeti (only want OBC leaders but have no policy for the community).
What have the OBC castes got from the BJP?
Plenty of respect. Now there is no Yadav daroga or Dalit daroga beating them. Earlier, during recruitment, a list would be sent. And officials would not dare measure the chest of those in the list for fear of Lucknow. But when other castes would go … suppose one Neeraj Sahni (Nishad) went up … they would decrease one inch from his measurement and kick him out. Now recruitment takes place without discrimination. You must have seen all jatis got space in Mr. Modi’s Cabinet. For 30 years did the SP and the BSP ask the Congress to provide space for the OBC at the Centre?
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