The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday announced an alliance with the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Nishad Party for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

At a press briefing, party chief JP Nadda said that the BJP was in talks with the two allies regarding seat-sharing.

“NDA allies are contesting together just like we did in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he said. “The BJP, Apna Dal, and Nishad Party will jointly contest polls on 403 seats in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.”

Both the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Nishad Party are allies of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The Apna Dal (Sonelal) has been an ally of the saffron party since 2014 and the Nishad Party since 2019.

On Wednesday, Apna Dal (Sonelal) chief Anupriya Patel, who is also a minister of state in the Union Cabinet, said the alliance was a “great cocktail of development and social justice”, reported NDTV.

“We have always struggled for justice for the common man,” she said. “With PM Modi we realised we can strengthen social justice... issues like OBC commission, reservation for backward classes. We got support from this government. So we decided this alliance will be taken forward in 2022.”

She also refuted reports claiming that her party has demanded to contest on 36 seats in the state Assembly polls, reported ANI.

“Winnability is the only criteria that we have to demand the seats,” Patel said. “We have to work and ensure a better Uttar Pradesh and I’m sure we will get another term. The seat-sharing formula is working in a good and positive manner.”

On Tuesday, Nishad Party founder Sanjay Nishad had that about 15 seats have been fixed for them and talks were ongoing for two-three more.

“Names of all the seats will be announced in two to four days, after our meeting,” said Nishad, adding that they have no problem in giving the seats to BJP.

On Wednesday, Nishad backed the BJP on the development of backward classes, amid the defections of OBC party leaders to the Samajwadi Party.

“Backward classes were being betrayed and orphaned... only meagre reservation in jobs was there but this government helped, Nishad said. “In UP, parties kept changing but backward classes’ condition did not. Issues that remained unresolved for 70 years are being resolved under this government.”

Three ministers who quit the Adityanath-led government as well as several backward caste leaders in Uttar Pradesh have expressed their dissatisfaction with the saffron party. They have accused the BJP of undermining the interests of the Dalit community, farmers, unemployed persons and small entrepreneurs.

On January 15, former Uttar Pradesh ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini along with five BJP MLAs and several other leaders had joined the the Samajwadi Party in Lucknow. On Sunday, another Uttar Pradesh minister Dara Singh Chauhan had also joined the Samajwadi Party.

The crucial 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly will go to polls in seven phases starting from February 10. The results will be announced on March 10.