Lucknow: The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati finds itself in flux ahead of the 9 November Rajya Sabha elections. Of the 10 Rajya Sabha seats up for election, the BSP has fielded a candidate for one, even though it doesn’t have the numbers.
Meanwhile, the BJP, which has by far the highest MLA strength in Uttar Pradesh, has staked claim to eight seats. It has some — but not enough — surplus votes to attempt a ninth contest. However, the party has decided against a repeat of 2018, when, short of the requisite first-preference votes, it managed to get a ninth candidate selected by second-preference votes.
This has fuelled speculation that the BJP left the ninth seat for Mayawati’s party as part of a secret tie-up with the BSP. Even though both parties deny the claim, the speculation also appears to have taken root within the BSP.
Five MLAs of the BSP — Aslam Rainey, Hakim Lal Bind, Mujtaba Siddiqui, Aslam Ali and Hargovind Bhargava — met Election Commission officials Wednesday morning. Aides close to the MLAs told ThePrint that they had met the election watchdog officials to demand the rejection of BSP candidate Ramji Gautam’s nomination.
The MLAs subsequently also met Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav at the party headquarters in Lucknow, as did two other legislators of the BSP — Sushma Patel and Vandana Singh.
Sources associated with the BSP said the MLAs have decided to quit the party because they are upset with what they perceive to be the party’s “internal agreement” with the BJP for a Rajya Sabha seat.
SP MLC Udaiveer Singh admitted some BSP MLAs had come to meet the party high command, saying they “are angry with their party’s internal understanding with the BJP”.
“Whether they will join the SP or not, will be decided by the high command,” he added.
‘BSP soft corner for BJP angers members’
There are altogether 403 seats in the UP assembly, of which 304 are with the BJP and another nine with its ally Apna Dal. The SP has 48 seats, the BSP 18, and the Congress seven, with nine seats split among smaller parties and independents. Eight seats are vacant, of which seven are headed for bypolls next month.
Until Tuesday, the last date of filing nominations for the Rajya Sabha polls, the BJP had fielded candidates for eight seats, the BSP for one, and the SP for the remaining one — and it looked like all would be elected unopposed. However, an Independent candidate, Prakash Bajaj, backed by the SP, Tuesday entered the race against the BSP candidate. This means an election in the seat — an election the BSP can’t win alone.
Rivals allege that, over the past several months, BSP supremo Mayawati has adopted an aggressive stance towards the Congress while appearing to take it easy on the BJP.
A senior leader in the Congress said the BSP is trying its best to split the party’s votes in the Madhya Pradesh byelections, due for 3 November, alleging that the Rajya Sabha seat is “some sort of return gift”.
Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Lallu said “the currently prevailing conditions” suggest the “BSP is soon going to merge with the BJP”. “This is the reason why the BJP has not fielded its ninth candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections. Now they will be seen supporting the BSP at the time of voting,” he added.
A senior Samajwadi Party leader said the “tacit understanding” between the BJP and the BSP “is revealed to all and that’s what we wanted”. “The BSP high command is not listening to their MLAs, that’s why they are coming towards the SP,” the leader added.
Sources in the BSP agreed, saying “Mayawati’s soft corner towards the BJP is among the reasons behind the MLAs’ rebellion”. Said one of the MLAs on the condition of anonymity, “We won our election by raising our voice against the RSS-BJP agenda. How can we now go again to the same public during elections and ask them to vote when we already have some dealing with the BJP. The BSP high command’s soft corner towards the BJP is a major reason for our anger.”
The BJP and the BSP, however, reject the allegations. “We have no deal with the BSP. For the Rajya Sabha elections, we had enough numbers to ensure victory of only eight candidates, so we have declared eight names. The party high command will decide about whom to support in the election,” said UP spokesperson Naveen Srivastava.
BSP general secretary and MP Satish Mishra told the media Tuesday that the SP has had an “old habit of buying MLAs”. “They are doing the same thing now. We will soon decide on taking action against rebel MLAs,” he added.
According to the sources in the SP, more leaders of the BSP — other than the seven MLAs — are in touch with the party. The SP MLAs’ visit to the party office Wednesday came a day after former BSP MP Tribhuvan Dutt joined the party in the presence of Akhilesh. In January this year, former BSP MP Ram Prasad Chaudhary, along with nearly a dozen former BSP lawmakers and leaders, joined the SP.
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BSP and the SP, rivals of years, joined hands but the alliance failed to leave a mark in the elections and they split soon afterwards.