UP parties keep fingers crossed ahead of Rajya Sabha polls
Lucknow: A day before voting to elect 10 Rajya Sabha members from UP on Friday, both the ruling party and the opposition are having their share of anxious moments as the BJP's decision to field an extra candidate has transformed the routine election into a prestige contest with ramifications for next year's general elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which can get eight candidates elected easily based on its strength in the assembly, has raised the stakes by fielding a ninth candidate.
Now faced with the task of getting nine more votes to its extra 28 first preference votes it has apart from those required for its eight candidates which includes Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, it is eyeing independents and some disgruntled elements in the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), who may be persuaded to cross vote.
SP, which has again fielded actress-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan, has 10 extra votes and would like to reciprocate the favour of one-time arch rival Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party's support in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, helped it trounce the BJP.
However, SP legislator from Hardoi, Nitin Agarwal, son of habitual political grasshopper Naresh Agarwal, has thrown his weight behind the BJP, soon after his father crossed over to the party.
Mayawati, with just 19 legislators, needs 18 more votes to get her sole candidate Bhim Rao Ambedkar to the Rajya Sabha. The nine votes of the SP, seven of the Congress and one of the Rashtriya Lok Dal make 17 votes for her candidate but challenges of defection and cross-voting are looming large on her mind, an aide said.
Leaving nothing to chance, even the probability of any of her own legislators ditching the party candidate, she is meeting them over dinner on Thursday to ensure that all was in place.
Her anxiety may be real.
Some SP leaders and lawmakers including Azam Khan, his son and legislator Abdulla Azam, and even Akhilesh Yadav's estranged uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav did not turn up at the meeting of the party legislators called by the party chief on Wednesday. While they explained different reasons for their absence and vouched for their loyalty to the party, Akhilesh Yadav is taking no chances and publicly showed affection and regard for Shivpal Yadav at the Wednesday dinner at a five-star hotel.
Party leaders however say all is well and that the results would be good on Friday.
BSP legislator Mukhtar Ansari and SP's Hari Om Yadav - both languishing in prisons, have also been allowed by the Election Commission to vote in the crucial elections, an official said. This came even as BSP's Rajya Sabha member and eminent lawyer Satish Chandra Mishra had rushed to the Allahabad High Court seeking permission for the two jailed lawmakers to cast their votes.
SP is keen to ensure a clean transfer of vote to Mayawati's candidate as this would be a big stepping stone to further parleys for a possible alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BSP on its part is watching the party to deliver as the Gorakhpur-Phulpur 'electoral understanding' was largely arrived at keeping the RS polls in mind.
The Congress, which just has seven legislators and has pledged support to BSP candidate, is also on its toes to ensure that there was no cross voting.
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State party chief Raj Babbar, and party veterans Pramod Tiwari and P.L. Punia are in town to ensure that not only the flock was together but also that there was no breach in the opposition unity. A senior Congress leader told IANS that the BJP had tried similar tactics in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls where they pulled out all tricks to ensure the defeat of party's Ahmad Patel but failed.
"We, in the opposition, are united and are certain that out candidates will sail through easily," the leader said.
Only the results will prove who managed to get the upper hand in the battle.