Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) is one of the two allies of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The party with four MLAs has considerable influence among the Rajbhar community in eastern UP. Rajbhar, minister of backward class welfare and divyangjan empowerment in the Yogi Adityanath government, has often attacked the BJP and its leadership on several issues, including the Bulandshahr violence and Ram mandir. State BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey has called Rajbhar a “necessary evil”. At an interview in Delhi, Rajbhar spoke to Prerna Katiyar on the reasons for his dissent. Edited excerpts:

After becoming an ally of the BJP, why are you attacking it?

My fight is for the poor and the unprivileged. I want to make people realise how they are being enslaved.

What exactly are you fighting for?

There has to be equality in education and jobs. The interests of backward communities have been ignored. You will not find many nai (barber) or lohar (ironsmith) as inspectors. There are 66 such castes. Why should that be?

I have also demanded improvement in the level of primary education in the state. There was a time when everyone went to government schools; they went on to become officers and doctors. But right now the condition of primary education is pathetic. You will not find the son or daughter of a politician in these schools. Across 75 districts, there are almost 1,59,000 schools with 3,18,000 vacancies. If you can’t hire full-time teachers why can’t you hire them on a contract basis?

In villages, many deserving people do not have BPL cards. Such anomalies are debilitating the poor. Many of the beneficiaries of Ujjwala or Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana are not the poor.

Lastly, the BJP keeps saying the Congress did nothing. But they opened hundreds of factories in their regime. Can’t you reopen closed factories? Won’t this create jobs?

Why don’t you discuss your problems with the BJP?

I have done it several times. After the government was formed in Uttar Pradesh in March 2017, I kept quiet for three months. I was watching. After this, I met Yogi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Om Mathur and Sunil Bansal to put across my demands.

This went on till March-April 2018. They did nothing. I met Amit Shah on March 20 for more than an hour. I was given an assurance. Till date nothing has happened.

Was that the beginning of your dissent?

The first dhokha (betrayal) was that a non-OBC was made the CM. You got their votes. That category is angry and divided. They are not the rightful beneficiaries in jobs and education.

The BJP calls you a ‘necessary evil’.

Then, why are they towing me? If it has the guts, throw me out. I am not begging them to keep me as a minister or an ally.

Why aren’t you leaving the BJP if you are so unhappy?

I will make the right move at the right time. I have helped them win 125 seats. Let them break the alliance.

There are rumours that you are unhappy because you did not get enough tickets in 2017.

If you recall, in April-May 2016, the BSP was on the rise. Then we had talks with the BJP and after the alliance, voters who were unhappy with the BSP and the SP started looking at BJP as an option. We held rallies of 25,000-50,000 people without any support from the BJP. I had demanded 22 seats. They gave only eight.

But they made you a cabinet minister.

I worked for them and helped them win. They have not done me a favour by making me a cabinet minister.

What do you make of BJP’s demand for Ram mandir?

Ram Mandir may come up but pujaris ought to be from every caste. Why should temples be helmed mainly by Brahmins? There are 9 lakh mandirs in UP, according to a survey. If 5 lakh pujaris come from backward castes, won’t as many families benefit from it? Why should I fight for mandir? Will it help me get my ration card? Will my child get a job? Nothing will happen by merely praying in a temple. Why has Yogi come to Lucknow from Gorakhpur? Because there is more power in Lucknow Vidhan Sabha mandir than in Gorakhpur mutt. But they want us to fight for Ram mandir. Many people are not educated and they easily get diverted. Today I am educated; that’s why I am talking about what I want. I am not going to fight for Ram or Rahman but for the poor.

Yogi has said Hanuman is a Dalit. It is wrong to divide gods. Now the Dalit community demands to take over Hanuman temples. To get votes, he can do anything. He is saying Asaduddin Owaisi will be thrown out. He is defying the Constitution. Is there any law that allows this? Yogi says the Congress is a losing party. But he lost his own (Gorakhpur) seat.

Why did the BJP lose Gorakhpur?

Because of its shortcomings.

What are your views on the RSS?

Their focus is to enslave and befool the society. Every strategy comes from Nagpur, including the idea of ‘Hanuman being a Dalit’.

Will you be part of BJP in 2019?

Only if they fulfil my demands. I am not their slave that I will help them in getting votes. This is not my personal fight. Improve primary education, get us jobs, get us reservation and we will be with them.

How will the BJP fare in 2019?

They will lose deposit in most seats. They are not realising that the OBCs whom they openly wooed are angry. After they got votes by projecting Keshav Prasad Maurya as CM, he was sidelined. Be it Lucknow or Varanasi, they will not win seats. In Varanasi, only Gujaratis have got theka-patta (contractual work). After notebandi (demonetisation), from builder to loader, everyone is unhappy. A cop was shot in broad daylight (in Bulandshahr) but they care only for the holy cow. Human life has no value. Cow is priceless.

What do you think of the law & order situation in UP?

Lawlessness is at its peak. Go to any police station. Corruption is rampant. During the SP tenure, if they took ₹500 to file an FIR, now they take ₹10,000. I experienced this when I went disguised as a poor man and tried to register an FIR. What will happen when thakur is daroga (cop) and thakur is SI (sub-inspector).