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Jayant-led RLD likely to join NDA on Feb. 12, says SBSP chief amid buzz of switchover

Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) president Om Prakash Rajbhar, a crucial partner in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), on Thursday said that the discussion with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) about joining the ruling alliance in Uttar Pradesh is almost complete and in all likelihood, on February 12, the RLD will join hands with the BJP-led alliance in U.P.

“The discussion is almost final and, in all likelihood, the RLD will join the fold of the NDA on February 12,” Mr. Rajbhar told The Hindu. February 12 is the birth anniversary of late Chaudhary Ajit Singh, the founder of the RLD and father of present party chief Jayant Chaudhary.

Mr. Rajbhar added that the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc has completely collapsed and the Samajwadi Party (SP) offering seven or even 10 seats to the RLD is of no value as the Opposition bloc will fail in opening its account in U.P.

“Even if offered two seats in the NDA, the RLD would win both, making the western U.P. party a relevant force in the State. In the SP and Congress-led INDIA bloc, it will fail to win a single seat, irrespective of how many seats are offered,” added the SBSP chief, who crossed over to the BJP-led NDA in July 2023.

When asked about the number of seats the SBSP would contest under the NDA formation in the Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Rajbhar said: “We are eyeing three parliamentary seats. Our alliance will sweep U.P.,”.

‘Win-win deal’

Both the BJP and the RLD remained silent over the increasing buzz of a tie-up going into the parliamentary polls while analysts called it a win-win deal for both the parties.

“U.P. is crucial for the BJP in 2024 for a third straight term at the Centre. It is not willing to take any risk and the speculation of an outreach to the RLD, a western U.P.-centric outfit, is aimed at the fulfilment of the objective for winning maximum seats in the politically crucial state sending 80 [Lok Sabha] seats. The RLD also has no ideological issue as in the past, Jayant Chaudhary’s father Ajit Singh remained in all kinds of coalitions. It is seeming like a win-win deal in the short run but may harm Jayant’s credibility,” said Ram Dutt Tripathi, a noted political commentator based in Lucknow.

The buzz of a potential BJP-RLD tie-up started fuelling since August 2023 when RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary skipped the Rajya Sabha session during the voting on Delhi Services Bill, despite being part of the INDIA bloc. The Services Bill was among the very few issues that saw the Opposition INDIA bloc collectively taking on the BJP.

Western U.P. challenge

Despite having won 64 seats out of 80 from U.P., the BJP-led NDA’s feelers towards the RLD seems to emerge from the scrutiny of recent electoral outcomes as the western U.P. region is increasingly transforming into a challenging electoral terrain for the BJP.

The BJP lost seven out of the 10 chairman seats in the Nagar Palika Parishads and Nagar Panchayats in Muzaffarnagar district in 2023 local body polls, while in 2022 Assembly elections, the SP-RLD coalition prevailed over the BJP in seven out of nine Assembly segments in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar district together.

The BJP lost one more seat of Khatauli in a by-poll to the RLD. In the 2019 polls, also in Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat parliamentary seats, the RLD lost narrowly to the BJP in a closely contested election.

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