Lucknow, Aug. 27: Mulayam Singh Yadav tonight looked set to snatch the Uttar Pradesh crown in his characteristic wrestler’s style, whisking away 13 legislators from Mayavati’s party.
A few hours after the Samajwadi Party chief called on governor Vishnu Kant Shastri and told him he had the backing of over 210 legislators, unconfirmed reports said Raj Bhavan has sent an invitation to Mulayam Singh.
PTI quoted Samajwadi leader Ambika Chowdhury as saying that Mulayam Singh would be sworn in at Raj Bhavan tomorrow afternoon. But the governor’s house had not confirmed this till 1 am.
Among the steady stream of politicians to Raj Bhavan today was a surprise guest — BJP leader and Union minister Rajnath Singh. His 40-minute huddle with the governor fuelled speculation that the Centre has given the green signal to invite Mulayam Singh. Rapid coronation of Mulayam Singh — however unappealing it is to the BJP’s rank and file — will help the party avoid a split and settle a score with Mayavati.
Mulayam Singh, who refused to hand over a list of supporters as suggested by the governor yesterday, was gung-ho throughout the day as his tally crept past the 203 majority milestone.
“I have told him (Shastri) that since these MLAs have either presented themselves personally or sent their support in writing, he should give me a chance to prove my majority in the House,” Mulayam Singh said after meeting the governor.
“I just told him that more will come to bother him if he remains indecisive,” added the Samajwadi leader, who has been contending that the Assembly, not Raj Bhavan, was the place to prove majority.
Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party suffered a stunning blow during the day when eight of its 111 MLAs paraded before the governor and pledged support to Mulayam Singh. “We have 205 MLAs in the House of 403 and others are coming,” a beaming Amar Singh, party general secretary, said.
As the day wore on, more switched sides, pushing up Mulayam Singh’s tally. Yesterday, he had been 12 short of the magic figure of 202, having the backing of 190 MLAs. The governor had asked him to present the list of supporters by today.
The status of the 13 BSP legislators is clouded in confusion. Their ranks need to swell to at least 37 to escape disqualification under the anti-defection law. “There are at least 25 more legislators in the BSP who are ready to switch sides and they will be coming with their letters of support anytime,” said Jayveer Singh, one of the converts.
“We were awaiting an opportunity to come out of the BSP and now we’ve got Mulayam Singh as our leader,” added Mehboob Ali, a former minister. Mayavati said her MLAs have been taken to Raj Bhavan “at gunpoint”.
An element of intrigue was added to the dramatic development when Rajnath called on the governor, but the BJP leader was circumspect. “The final decision has to be taken by the governor. I hope he will safeguard democratic norms,” was all Rajnath would say.
By dividing the BSP, the Samajwadi chief appears to have sent a signal to the BJP also: if there is any delay in inviting him, he might try his hand at breaking its ranks as well.
Mulayam Singh’s refusal to send the list of his supporters to the governor is part of a calculated strategy. Aware that the BJP would be committing hara-kiri if it opts for fresh elections, he is in no hurry to resolve the logjam.
“If the BJP wants to give the impression that they are obliging us by handing over power in Uttar Pradesh, our answer is no, thank you,” Amar Singh said.
In the evening, as the race to rustle up numbers continued, Samajwadi state general secretary Shiv Pal Singh Yadav claimed that letters of support from 15 Independents had been sent to Raj Bhavan.
They included Raja Bhaiyya — who is in jail following a crackdown by the Mayavati government — and Dhananjay Singh, who led last November’s rebellion against Mayavati, as well as known BSP backers like Vijay Singh, Akhilesh Pratap Singh and Atiq Ahmed. Sixteen legislators from the Congress and five MLAs from smaller parties also called on the governor. The RLD and Left parties are also with Mulayam Singh.