With Rajya Sabha elections on Friday, political parties in the state took to ensuring their flock of Assembly members stayed together. Eleven candidates are in the fray for the 10 seats on offer from the state. The BJP, which has fielded nine candidates, has the numbers to get at least eight seats and the other two are expected to go to the SP and the BSP, which will count on the support of other parties. And while whips have been issued, cross-voting or invalid votes could upset the arithmetics.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday morning called a meeting of his MLAs and invited them to dinner at a five-star hotel later. At both events, a few legislators failed to turn up, causing rumours to spread like wildfire.
Prominent among those absent during the morning meeting was Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav. However, he attended the dinner, along with Independent legislator Raghuraj Pratap Singh. “All of us are together. All those who have not come, will also come (and vote according to SP mandate).” said Shivpal, after the dinner. Party candidate Jaya Bachchan and MP Dimple Yadav also attended the dinner.
Even Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called a meeting of his party MLAs at his official residence in Lucknow, which was also attended by alliance members SBSP and Apna Dal. Sources said SP MLA Nitin Agarwal, whose father and outgoing MP Nitin Agarwal who had quit the SP and joined BJP recently, and Independent MLA Amanmani Tripathi also attended this meeting. After intitally threatening to withdraw his support, and reverting after meeting BJP chief Amit Shah, SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar too attended the meeting with his party MLAs.
The BJP held a trial-run of the elections with rules being explained to the members and a voting exercise as well.
Meanwhile, Congress, which had issued whip to its MLAs to vote for BSP candidate Bhim Rao Ambedkar, has asked its senior leaders, including Rajya Sabha MPs Parmod Tiwari, PL Punia, Sanjay Singh, Raj Babbar as well as former MLA Imran Masoon, to camp in Lucknow for next two days to ensure this. The party has also invited its legislators for lunch on Thursday.
“I have come here to ensure that the Opposition candidate wins. All our leaders will camp here to ensure that,” said Congress state chief Babbar.
The BJP move to field nine candidates, earned criticism from the SP. “If BJP was concerned about democratic values then they would not have fielded 9th candidate,” said Akhilesh Yadav at the morning meeting. “It appears that BJP does not mind indulging in malpractice. Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls results were a sign that public has lost faith.”