Since the BJP returned to power in Uttar Pradesh and Keshav Prasad Maurya retained the post of deputy chief minister, despite losing in the Assembly elections, he is being frequently targeted by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and its chief Akhilesh Yadav. Both the OBC leaders — Akhilesh and Maurya — have been hitting out at each other and many a time their remarks turned personal. Their headline-grabbing spar on the floor of the Assembly earlier this year forced Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to intervene.
Recently, Akhilesh in an interview to a news channel called Maurya “weak” and said the deputy CM “could not become the chief minister”. The SP chief even offered to make him CM if the BJP leader broke away with 100 MLAs.
However, according to SP insiders, there is more to it than what meets the eye. An SP leader said that Akhilesh’s frequent attacks on Maurya is “more a political strategy than something personal”.
“Through his remarks and tweets against the Deputy CM, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to send a message that Maurya, an OBC leader, is being neglected in the BJP and that the ruling party is using him only for getting the votes of the backward castes. This could be SP’s strategy to woo non-Yadav OBCs,” said the SP leader, on the condition of anonymity.
On September 10, Akhilesh tweeted a photo of Maurya, saying that the budget of the deputy CM’s ministry had been cut down and funds were not transferred to his departments. This, he added, had resulted in the non-issuance of tenders. Maurya holds several portfolios, including the ministries of rural development and food processing.
Though the war of words between Maurya and Akhilesh first started after the 2017 Assembly elections when the BJP leader became the deputy CM, it only became shriller after the Assembly polls earlier this year. By May, it seemingly became “personal” when both the leaders sparred on the floor of the Assembly, with Maurya saying he would ensure that the SP doesn’t come to power in the state “for the next 40 years”.
Since then the verbal duel between Maurya and Akhilesh has only worsened. After Assembly elections this year, the SP president toned down his attacks on Adityanath, whom he frequently targeted ahead of the polls. Also, Akhilesh hardly makes any comment on Brajesh Pathak, the other deputy CM, with the entire party machine singling out Maurya.
The following are some of the tweets of the SP’s social media cell on Maurya. “… Inka kaam hai khikhi-khikhi karna aur dinbhar vipakshi netaon ke khilaf anargal bayanbaji karna (His job is to giggle all day and make unrestrained remarks against the Opposition leaders),” the SP’s media cell tweeted, calling Maurya “Gyanchand”.
“BJP mein ucchh jatiyon ki gulami karke pichhdon Daliton ke naam par kalank ban chuke Keshav Prasad Maurya ko jab Akhilesh Yadav ji ne seedha CM banne ka offer diya to Keshav bhadak gaye (bhale hi andar hi andar mann mein ichhayen ho). (Maurya has become a blot in the name of the backward castes and Dalits by serving the upper castes in the BJP like a slave. He got furious when Akhilesh Yadav offered to make him CM even though he desires it in his heart),” the SP’s media cell tweeted, tagging Maurya’s official handle.
“Keshav Prasad Maurya, till when will you get insulted in the BJP? Now, even the people are saying that Keshav ji is being insulted in the BJP…If you cannot raise your voice in BJP for your won rights and respect, how will you raise voice for the backward classes.. when you will get full izzat (prestige),” read another tweet on September 9.
When asked about the frequent targeting of Maurya, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “Akhilesh ji does not hate anyone. There is nothing personal with him (Maurya). Akhilesh ji only reacts. BJP is using him (Maurya) against Akhilesh ji.”
Notably, from the BJP side, it is Maurya who has been leading the party’s attack on the SP and Akhilesh. Even in the ruling camp, some of the BJP leaders read Akhilesh’s frequent and direct attacks on Maurya as a political ploy to weaken the government and BJP’s vote bank.
“By offering Maurya the CM’s post, the SP could be trying to shrug off the label of being the party of Yadavs only. Maybe, Akhilesh is trying to give a message that the SP can make a non-Yadav OBC and someone outside the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family as the chief minister,” a BJP leader said.
BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, “By attacking Maurya ji, Akhilesh wants to consolidate the OBCs in the SP’s favour. This is a part of his caste-based politics. Akhilesh Yadav is not able to accept that the BJP is promoting an OBC leader.”