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Stick for 15 converts

Lucknow, Sept. 4: The Bahujan Samaj Party has decided to invoke the anti-defection law to disqualify 15 of its MLAs for switching sides instead of waiting to see whether they defy the party whip during the floor test.

BSP legislature party leader Swami Prasad Maurya moved a petition to this effect before Speaker Kesari Nath Tripathi today.

Thirteen of the MLAs had called on governor Vishnu Kant Shastri to pledge support to Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav before he was invited to form the government. Two MLAs had joined later and were seen sitting on the treasury benches on September 2, when the Assembly met after Mayavati’s fall.

Chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has to prove his majority in the House on September 8.

“Our legal advisers say these MLAs could be disqualified under the anti-defection law. There is no need to wait till September 8,” said state BSP chief Barkhu Ram Verma.

This might not scuttle Mulayam Singh’s chance to prove his majority but it will make the Samajwadi chief beholden to Tripathi and strengthen the allegation of a tacit understanding between the Samajwadi and the BJP. “The Speaker will have to repeat his 1997 act if he wants to save Mulayam Singh,” said a BJP leader.

After Mayavati broke the BSP-BJP alliance in 1997 and the BJP engineered a split in the BSP to save Kalyan Singh’s government, Tripathi had held the split valid though the breakaway MLAs fell short of one-third of the BSP’s strength.

Mulayam Singh needs at least 37 BSP MLAs for the split to be valid. If he falls short of numbers, Tripathi — who belonged to the BJP — is his only hope. The BJP is enjoying the Samajwadi chief’s discomfiture and has decided not to disclose its cards.

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