After the success of the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine in the Lok Sabha bye-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the parties Friday are facing another contest against the BJP in the Rajya Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. Voting started at 9 am this morning in Lucknow for 10 seats. There is an indirect contest between Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and SP president Akhilesh Yadav for the last seat. While eight of the BJP’s candidates have been elected to the Upper House, Adityanath is trying to drum up support to ensure the party’s ninth candidate Anil Agarwal is elected as well. Akhilesh, meanwhile, has assured support of SP’s surplus vote to BSP nominee Bhimrao Ambedkar.
Top leaders of the three parties, BJP, SP and BSP, are on their toes in the apprehension of cross-voting by MLAs, because the SP-BSP combine is short of votes after developments over the past few days. With one MLA each– Hari Om Yadav (SP) and Mukhtar Ansari (BSP) — in jail, and Naresh Agrawal’s son Nitin (SP MLA) set to vote for BJP, the SP-BSP numbers appeared on thin edge for the purpose.
Eleven candidates are in the fray for 10 seats from UP. A party needs 37 votes for its candidate to win a seat to the House. BJP will win eight candidates, as it has 311 MLAs in the UP legislative Assembly. Its allies Apna Dal has nine MLAs and Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) has four. With these 324 votes, BJP can comfortably send its eight candidates, including Union Finance Minister Arun Jately, to the Upper House.
However, voting is necessitated for Agarwal, who will receive votes on first preference only from 28 MLAs of NDA. The party has pinned its hopes on SP’s Nitin Agarwal, the son of Naresh Agarwal who recently joined BJP and Independent candidate Aman Mani Tripathi, who has announced support to the BJP. It is also hopeful of getting the vote of NISHAD party MLA from Gyanpur Vijay Mishra. BJP may also get the vote of one BSP MLA in cross voting.
After Nitin announced his decision to support the BJP, SP has been left with 46 votes, but it’s MLA Hari Om Yadav is unlikely to vote because he is currently lodged in jail.
The Allahabad High Court on Thursday stayed the Ghazipur (ST/ST act) special judge’s order allowing BSP’s jailed MLA Mukhtar Ansari to vote in the elections. After Ansari, BSP has 18 MLAs but one of them is likely to cross vote in support of BJP. BSP is banking on nine votes of SP, seven from Congress and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). It will still remain two votes short of sending its candidate to the House.
In a bid to prevent defection and keep its MLAs with the party, the SP hosted a dinner for the second consecutive day on Thursday, which was attended by Mulayam Singh Yadav and party principal general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Yadav, who previously had strained relations with Akhilesh, was present at the first dinner on Wednesday. He cast his first vote today. SP has fielded Jaya Bachchan for the elections and assured support of its extra MLAs to BSP’s Dalit candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar.
Votes of Independent MLAs Raghuraj Pratap Singh, Raja Bhaiyya, and Vinod Saroj are crucial today. While they had attended Akhilesh’s dinner party on Wednesday and assured their support, their closeness with Adityanath has left the SP leadership in a wait-and-watch situation.
The pressure on Akhilesh has heightened after SP-BSP wins in the Lok Sabha by-polls. It was decided that BSP will transfer its vote bank to SP candidates in Lok Sabha by-polls and, in return, SP’s extra MLAs will support BSP nominee in Rajya Sabha elections. SP won both the prestigious Lok Sabha seats which were vacated by Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. “Now, it’s the SP’s turn to back the BSP. If SP fails to support Ambedkar, that will send an adverse message to Dalits in the state and will not be good for the SP-BSP alliance in future,” said a BSP leader.
Congress has also announced its support to the BSP nominee, but senior Congress leaders are camping in Lucknow to maintain communication with its seven MLAs to prevent cross voting.
The BJP, meanwhile, has appealed to the RLD, which has one MLA, for support, according to sources.
While eight candidates are through the Rajya Sabha, BJP hopes to ensure passage to its last candidate. As voting is underway only for this one, Adityanth is under pressure to acquire additional votes in order to ensure his election as well. On Thursday, Adityanath chaired a meeting with MLAs from the BJP and its allies for the second consecutive day.
BSP chief Mayawati is camping in Lucknow and, according to sources, said she is constantly collecting feedback from party leaders about the voting.