India

Jailed MLAs, Independents hold key to RS elections in UP

As battle lines are drawn for elections to 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh, all eyes are now on jailed MLAs and turncoats, even as parties resort to dinner diplomacy to keep flocks together

Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Biswajeet Banerjee

With 11 candidates in the fray, Uttar Pradesh is set to see a contest for one of its 10 Rajya Sabha seats that are up for election on March 23. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which can win 8 seats, is aiming for a ninth and has put up 9 candidates. SP and BSP have put up a candidate each. The Samajwadi Party on its own strength in Assembly will easily win its seat. The Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal and leftover votes from Samajwadi Party could ensure victory for the BSP candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar, but fear of defections has made the battle an interesting contest between BJP and BSP.

The battle now hinges on SP MLA from Sirsaganj (Firozabad district) Hariom Yadav and independent MLA from Mau, Mukhtar Ansari. Both are in jail and not attending the ongoing budget session of the state legislature. SP and BSP leaders on Monday met UP Chief Election Officer, T Venkatesh to plead that the two MLAs be allowed to cast their votes in the Rajya Sabha election.

“If need be, we will also move the High Court seeking permission to allow these legislators to cast their votes,” said Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhry.

What made the Opposition look for support from the jailbirds is the sudden defection of SP MLA Nitin Agarwal to BJP, after his father SP MP Naresh Agarwal was denied a repeat Rajya Sabha ticket and subsequently switched to BJP. Naresh even declared that Nitin would ensure defeat of opposition candidate in the Rajya Sabha.

This election has seen many twists and turns in the last week. If one hand BJP’s alliance partner Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party threw tantrums with one of the senior ministers Om Prakash Rajbhar stayed away from the anniversary celebration of Yogi Government, on the other independents like Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya and Vijay Mishra kept their cards close to their chests.

Rajbhar was placated after his meeting with BJP national president Amit Shah in New Delhi on March 20, and after that he declared that he and his party will vote for BJP, But the suspense over which way Independents will vote continues.

“I do not know which way these Independents will vote because Raja Bhaiya was a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav Government though they did not enjoy good relations, while Vijay Mishra was previously with SP but was denied ticket in last election,” a senior SP lawmaker told this reporter. “I heard both of them are in touch with BJP,” he said

Meanwhile, both BJP and its allies and the Opposition parties led by Samajwadi Party have called for a meeting on Wednesday evening. The BJP meeting will be held at CM Yogi Adityanath’s residence, while the Opposition will have a dinner meeting at a hotel. SP sources said Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav were likely to attend the dinner.

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