The Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aaam Dal, or Nishad party president Sanjay Nishad on Sunday said they will contest in 15 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh as part of an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, but the seats are yet to be finalised.
Nishad said he will meet senior BJP leaders, including Amit Shah, in Delhi on Monday to finalise the constituencies where the party will field its candidates.
"We have got 15 seats (out of 403 seats) to contest in alliance with the BJP. The seats are almost final. Most of the seats are in 'Purvanchal' (East UP) and some are in 'Paschimanchal' (West)."
"There are some seats which we want to change due to changing equations. We are focusing not only on seat but 'jeet' (victory)," Nishad told PTI when asked about his proposed meeting with Union Home Minister Shah.
The Nishad party, was formed in 2016 and its leaders claim to enjoy support of the Nishad community, which is one of the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Nishad said his party has built cadre base all over the state and has substantial influence in Gorakhpur, Ballia, Sant Kabir Nagar, Ambedkar Nagar, Jaunpur, Bhadohi, Sultanpur, Faizabad, Chitrakoot, Jhansi, Banda, Hamipur and Etawah districts, among others.
The party fielded 100 candidates in the last assembly election in 2017 in alliance with the Peace Party of India, Apna Dal and the Jan Adhikar Party, but could win just one seat -- Gyanpur in Bhadohi district.
Nishad, now a member of the Legislative Council, had contested the last assembly election from Gorakhpur Rural and came third.
In the 2018 Lok Sabha by-election, Sanjay Nishad's son Praveen Kumar Nishad was a Samajwadi Party candidate and wrested the Gorakhpur constituency from the BJP which had been winning the seat since 1989.
Praveen Kumar Nishad is now a BJP MP from Sant Kabir Nagar.
The Nishad community is the second largest demographic group in Gorakhpur, the home turf of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Asked about the restrictions imposed by the Election Commission on physical rallies due to the coronavirus pandemic and how his party will deal with it, Sanjay Nishad said, "We have associated youth workers who extensively use social media and digital offices of the party is functional in 70 districts (out of total 75). We are active on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp."
He said the party is finalising its candidates after verifying their social and economic backgrounds.
On the allegations of rival parties that the BJP will be fielding people with criminal background from his party's quota, Nishad said, "We will go through the image of every candidate and his acceptance among party workers and people. If people and workers like a candidate, he can be given a chance."
On some BJP MLAs and ministers belonging to backward castes joining the Samajwadi Party ahead of the election, Nishad said, "They had no popularity. They were praising and giving positive report card for Prime Minister and Chief Minister from dias during programmes. Now, when they became powerless due to the imposition of the model code of conduct by the EC, they left the party. People now understand such people."
Asked which party is the main challenger to the BJP, he said it appears the SP is in direct fight with the BJP, but added that the ruling coalition will win more than 300 seats.
"BJP takes all castes along. In the first list of candidates, majority of OBCs were given tickets. Its acceptance is good on the ground also due to works done by both the central and state governments," he said.
He also took a swipe at Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) leader Om Prakash Rajbhar saying 'even people of his area do not give importance to him'.
The SBSP is contesting the election in alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
The assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases between February 10 and March 7 and the results will be announced on March 10.