| Independent legislator Dhananjay Singh in police custody in Lucknow. (PTI)
Lucknow, Nov. 3: This morning’s arrests of two legislators leading the campaign against the Mayavati government achieved the objective of her rival Mulayam Singh Yadav of forcing the Congress’ hand in the tussle.
Noncommittal thus far, the Congress today rushed to Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri to demand his immediate intervention to stop what the Opposition perceives as a vendetta.
Angry groups of Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party and rebel BJP legislators also descended on Shastri and, as though speaking in unison with them, the Congress demanded a special session of the Assembly, asking Mayavati to prove her majority.
The day began with the arrests of two Independents, Raghuraj Pratap Singh (Raja Bhaiyya) and Dhananjay Singh, here on the charge of trying to kidnap pro-Mayavati MLAs. The action was of a piece with the earlier raids and registration of cases against the rebels.
It followed the limited success of the BJP leaders’ efforts yesterday to woo back some of the dozen rebels who had met the Governor two days ago to express lack of confidence in the Mayavati government.
One of them, Pooran Singh Bundela, alleged that Raja Bhaiyya and Dhananjay Singh accosted him when he was returning from the BJP state headquarters last night and warned him that he would face dire consequences if he switched back to the Mayavati camp.
The arrests provoked an angry reaction from the Opposition. “It’s a blatant case of political vendetta,” said BJP rebel leader Ganga Bhakta Singh. He refuted the leadership’s claim that the rebels’ ranks were dwindling. “This action has added fuel to fire and we are more determined to fight on than ever.”
Samajwadi Party general secretary Shiva Pal Singh Yadav said the action betrayed “Mayavati’s frustration and desperation” and claimed that “the countdown has begun”.
In a letter to the Governor, Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tewari said Mayavati should not be allowed to use official machinery to prop up her sinking government. “We want a special session of the Assembly to be called so that there is an end to this uncertainty.”
The Congress high command is reluctant about teaming up with Mulayam, but would have no choice other than to vote against Mayavati.
If Mayavati loses, again it will have no choice but to support, or join Mulayam in forming the government. Tewari was cautious. “This does not mean that we have decided to support Mulayam. We will take appropriate action at the right time,” he said.
While Raj Bhavan continued to ignore Opposition calls, Mayavati defended the action. Speaking in Saharanpur, she said the two MLAs were arrested for threatening Bundela at gunpoint after he met the Governor to express support for her government.
Amar Singh, the Samajwadi leader, and Ganga Bhakta Singh met the arrested MLAs and demanded their release. The Opposition pointed out that these were not the first politically-linked actions.
“Right since the crisis begun, cases have been lodged against dissidents more as a warning to them,” said Raja Bhaiyya.
On October 24, a day before seven Independents met the Governor to withdraw support to Mayavati, Dhananjay Singh’s houses were raided.
The next day, police raided the residence of rebel BJP leader Ramashees Rai and on October 26 an extortion case was slapped on Raja Bhaiyya and his father.
This was followed by 38 land-grab cases against another rebel, Raja Ram Sharma, a case under forest laws against BJP dissident Pooran Singh Bundela and criminal cases against the uncle of another.