Om Prakash Rajbhar, an influential leader among a section of the Other Backward Classes in Uttar Pradesh, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance on Sunday.

Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party had won four seats in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, which it had contested in alliance with the BJP. However, Rajbhar had a fallout with the BJP on seat allocation ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2022 state elections, Rajbhar’s party allied with the Samajwadi Party and increased its tally to six seats.

On Sunday morning, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced on Twitter that Rajbhar has decided to return to the National Democratic Alliance.

“Rajbhar ji will bolster the National Democratic Alliance in Uttar Pradesh and the efforts taken by [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi ji towards the welfare of the poor and deprived will gain strength,” Shah wrote in his tweet.

Rajbhar told reporters that his party will contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the BJP. When asked about his earlier statement that he would join Opposition parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress, Rajbhar said that he had tried to speak to these outfits but did not get a response.

“How many days was I supposed to wait?” he asked. “So, I decided to be part of the fight for social justice being spearheaded by the prime minister, the home minister and Uttar Pradesh chief minister [Adityanath].”

The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party support base mostly comprises backward castes, which account for over 20% of the population in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The Rajbhar community forms 3% of the state population and has presence in nearly 125 Assembly seats.

Rajbhar’s support for Adityanath comes after the chief minister had sacked him from the state Cabinet in May 2019. However, Rajbhar, who was the backward class welfare and divyangjan empowerment minister in the Adityanath Cabinet, had claimed that he had already tendered his resignation a month earlier and it had not been accepted.

Rajbhar’s decision to go back to the National Democratic Alliance fold came a day after another leader from the Other Backward Classes, Dara Singh Chauhan, resigned from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, PTI reported. He was elected from the Ghosi seat in Mau district on the Samajwadi Party symbol.

Chauhan was also a minister in the Adityanath Cabinet and was among the slew of Other Backward Classes leaders who had quit the BJP ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections to join the Samajwadi Party.

Both Rajbhar and Chauhan are expected to attend the National Democratic Alliance’s meeting in Delhi on July 18. The meeting is being seen as a show of strength by the BJP-led alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Another Other Backward Classes leader Chirag Paswan, the son of former Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan, has also been invited to attend the meeting, according to PTI.