This month’s Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur and the Rajya Sabha elections will be major tests for the BSP and the SP to assess the potential for their new bonhomie and judge the public appetite for any future alliance.
The elections will also be an opportunity for a public scrutiny of the Opposition unity, especially after BSP chief Mayawati dropped hints recently that her party was willing for a quid-pro-quo deal with the SP and the Congress for the Rajya Sabha polls.
On Sunday, she, however, ruled out the possibility of an electoral alliance for the Lok Sabha bypolls. Mayawati said if SP and BSP legislators transfer their votes to defeat the BJP in Rajya Sabha and UP Legislative Council polls, it should not be seen as an electoral alliance.
“Our party after holding deliberations with the SP has decided that our party worker will go to Rajya Sabha. In return, we will help them in Legislative Council polls,” she said.
The Lok Sabha bypolls are scheduled for March 11, and the elections for Rajya Sabha seats will take place on March 23.
The Lok Sabha seats were vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya after the UP assembly polls last year. Gorakhpur is Adityanath’s home turf.
Senior BJP leader in Uttar Pradesh, JPS Rathore, said: “In this Rajya Sabha election, one candidate needs 37 first preference votes to sail through and emerge victorious. Arithmatically, the BJP is easily winning eight out of 10 seats. On the ninth seat, there could be some sangharsh (contest).”
“At present, we have 28 additional votes,” Rathore added.
In the 245-member upper house of Parliament, Uttar Pradesh has 31 seats, being the most populous state of India. Nine of them are due to fall vacant in April.
The seats are represented by Naresh Agarwal, Jaya Bachchan, Kiranmay Nanda, Chaudhary Munwar Saleem, Alok Tiwari and Darshan Singh Yadav (all SP), Munquad Ali (BSP), Pramod Tiwari (Congress) and Vinay Katiyar (BJP). Their term ends on April 2.
Apart from this, election is likely to be held for the 10th Rajya Sabha seat, which fell vacant following Mayawati’s resignation. She resigned on July 20, 2017, nine months before her term was to expire, alleging that her voice was being muzzled.
With the BJP and its allies storming to power in Uttar Pradesh after the 2017 assembly elections, the saffron party is set to wrest a lion’s share of these seats in the Council of States, as the Rajya Sabha is known.
In the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the BJP and its allies have 324 seats (BJP’s Noorpur MLA died in a road accident in February), followed by the Samajwadi Party – 47 MLAs, the BSP 19, the Congress seven, and the RLD one.
During the previous biennial polls to the Rajya Sabha two years ago, the SP managed to win six seats by virtue of its strength in the assembly, whose members vote in the indirect polling.
Confident that the BJP can easily win the Rajya Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) leader Arvind Sharma said: “Once UP sends new representatives to the Rajya Sabha, the BJP-led NDA government will be in a better position in the upper house of Parliament, where key bills get stuck in the absence of majority (for the ruling party).”
Mayawati has also said that the BSP has not fielded any candidate from Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seats, “but this does not mean party workers will not cast their votes. They will in fact exercise their voting rights appropriately.
“As per my earlier directives, the BSP workers will vote for a candidate who will be in a position to defeat the BJP, and there is nothing wrong in it.”
She said if the BSP votes for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, “then the Congress can send one (of its party worker to) Rajya Sabha. “If the Congress wants to ensure an easy win for its candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls in Madhya Pradesh, then the seven Congress MLAs (in UP) should cast their vote (for the BSP in Rajya Sabha polls) after showing them to the BSP agent.”
But UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi claimed that the BJP will register “easy wins” and there’s no doubt about it. “In fact, the BSP is confused… Both SP and BSP are in a state of gloom, and are fighting for their existence.”
He added, the Congress too is in shock as the BSP has decided to support the SP, instead of helping the Congress.