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Apna Dal, a regional party in Uttar Pradesh, and already part of NDA, has merged with BJP ahead of UP elections in 2017. Its President Anupriya Patel is expected to be made a minister in the cabinet re-shuffle tomorrow. The party has significant support amongst the Kurmi community which accounts for c.7% population of the state especially in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Apna Dal enjoys size-able influence in c. 20 seats.
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In 2014 Lok Sabha polls it won both the seats it contested (Mirzapur and Pratapgarh) bagging 1% vote share. Historically in the last three state elections it recorded 1.4% vote share. BJP received 53% support of Kurmi / Koeri community in 2014 LS polls up from 20% in 2009 partly due to this alliance.
As Apna Dal was already part of NDA, how does this merger help? BJP seems to be learning a few tricks from the Congress and learnt its lessons from Bihar.
Congress has used this trick over the years to increase support base and eliminate competition. Most recent examples being Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party in Andhra in 2011. Party used the same trick to lure KCR’s Telangana Rashtriya Samiti but he said no to the overtures.
Five Advantages of the merger:
1. Ensures Apna Dal cannot hop over to SP-BSP in a hung assembly situation
From 1991-2007 UP has witnessed hung assemblies. In a quadrangular contest, assuming UP throws a hung assembly, Apna Dal members can be poached by other parties or they can bargain with other parties for a better deal. This step closes that option.
2. Less headache in seat distribution
In Bihar, BJP had to encounter this problem. As BJP inducted new allies like Manjhi’s HAM, other allies didn’t want to give up their seats, and BJP had to offer seats to HAM from their quota. Merger means Apna Dal will have lesser bargaining in terms of seats and will be forced to share seats from their quota as well if new allies like Bharat Samaj Party are brought in.
3. Paves way for capturing Apna Dal’s Kurmi / Koeri support base
This will help BJP get all the votes of Apna Dal’s support base. In the long run, even if relations sour between Anupriya and BJP, and Anupriya leaves the party, it will be difficult for her to get all the votes back.
4. Eliminates competition
Regional parties are direct competition to national parties in states. Usually bereft of ideology they hobnob with whom so ever in power. Merger helps BJP eliminate competition in future.
5. Weakens the merged entity (Apna Dal)
Anupriya is being made a minister. If BJP wins the state, some of her MLAs will be made ministers. In this way their loyalty to Anupriya is weakened and in case Anupriya wants to leave BJP in future, all her MLAs won’t leave the party along with her.
Apna Dal is the first of smaller regional parties which BJP will seek to merge with itself in the run up to the assembly elections next year. Next on target could be Bharat Samaj Party. Stay tuned for more updates.