After its unexpected defeat in the recent Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the ruling BJP might be in for fresh trouble in this week’s Rajya Sabha polls on 10 seats from Uttar Pradesh, with a sulking ally keeping its cards close to its chest.
While the BJP has the numbers to send its eight candidates to the Upper House, its ally, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), which has four MLAs in the 403-member UP Assembly, holds key to the fate of its ninth nominee. The SP and the BSP exude confident they would win two of the 10 seats. The polls are scheduled for March 23.
“…How can I tell you that whether we will be voting for the BJP or any other party in the Rajya Sabha elections? We are yet to take a final stand on this,” SBSP chief Omprakash Rajbhar told PTI. He said his party was not consulted by the BJP before announcing the candidate.
“We are still in alliance with the BJP,” he said, “but did they consult us before finalising their candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections and Lok Sabha bypolls (Gorakhpur and Phulpur)?”
“They fielded their candidates in the urban local bodies polls, but did they appropriately discharge the alliance dharma. In the Lok Sabha bypoll did they ever ask the alliance partners what could be their possible roles?” he rued.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today said the BJP had fielded an extra candidate, as it would be left with 28 additional first preference votes even after ensuring victory of eight of its nominees.
“I see no harm in fielding an extra candidate. We have the maximum number of 28 surplus votes, you will see how nine more votes come to take the score to 37 votes required for victory,” Adityanath told a reporter here.
The SBSP chief also said, “Unless someone (from BJP) asks us, how will talks take place? Should I go and say that I will vote for you.”
“Finalising the candidate is their job, not ours. But, as a courtesy they should ask at least once as to whether we will join them in campaigning. No leader asked us. In this scenario, how can I tell you whether we will vote for BJP or any other party in the RS polls. We are yet to take a final call,” he said.
On whether his party will cross-vote, Rajbhar, a minister in the Adityanath Cabinet said, “We are in alliance, and if they do not discharge the alliance dharma, should we go to them and say that please take our vote?”
He claimed his party could have influenced at least 30,000 votes in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls and the results could have been otherwise. “But, it seems we have no utility (for the BJP). Similarly, in Phulpur, we were not invited even once to campaign for the BJP candidate,” he said.
A sulking Rajbhar said, “You have kept us in alliance. Either I don’t know how to discharge the alliance dharma or I am saying something wrong…The nominations for the Rajya Sabha elections have been done. But, is it not the duty of the BJP to consult us and deliberate on the election.”
The SBSP president observed that Dalits and backwards classes were “ignored”, and the trend was continuing. Another ally Apna Dal (S), however, made it clear that all its nine MLAs would back larger NDA partner BJP.
“In the larger interest of the state’s people, we will support BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls,” Apna Dal (S) spokesman Arvind Sharma said.
Seeking to downplay SBSP’s annoyance, state BJP spokesperson Manish Shukla said, “Our alliance partners are with the BJP. Both Apna Dal (S) and SBSP are with BJP.”
“I am confident that they will vote for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls. The alliance is in best of health, all the partners are together,” he said. Shukla exuded confidence that all the BJP candidates will win the Rajya Sabha elections.
The BJP and its allies currently have 324 seats in the Assembly after Noorpur MLA’s death in a road accident recently, and to secure a straight win in this Rajya Sabha election, a candidate needs 37 first preference votes.
Arithmetically, BJP can easily win eight of the 10 seats and be left with 28 surplus votes.
If the SBSP decides not to go with the BJP, even then the BJP’s eight candidates will smoothly sail through, and the party will be left with 24 surplus first preference votes.
“There can be some contest on the ninth seat,” a UP BJP leader said.
With 19 MLAs, the BSP is short of 18 first preference votes, and with Naresh Agarwal’s son Nitin, who is still an SP MLA, likely to cross-vote for the BJP, the task will become difficult for Mayawati’s candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar.
After the new found bonhomie with the SP, Mayawati is banking on the 10 surplus votes of Akhilesh Yadav’s party, besides seven votes of the Congress and one of RLD to reach the magic figure of 37 votes.
However, Nitin can queer the BSP’s pitch if he votes for the BJP.
Naresh, who recently quit the SP and joined the BJP, has said his son would vote for the saffron party in the Rajya Sabha polls.
The country’s most populous state sends 31 MPs to the 245-member Rajya Sabha, and the BJP, which won a massive victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, is yet to get a lion’s share of these.
With 83 members in the Upper House, the NDA is well short of a majority. The BJP has 58 Rajya Sabha MPs.
The BJP candidates from UP are Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav, GVL Narasimha Rao and Anil Kumar Agarwal.
The SP has fielded Jaya Bachchan and BSP Bhimrao Ambedkar.