The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poaching left to Mayavati

New Delhi, Jan. 3: Unsure of keeping its own flock in Uttar Pradesh together, the BJP is pinning hopes on Mayavati to engineer a split in the Congress and shore up her strength in case a no-confidence motion is moved against the BJP-BSP coalition when the Assembly convenes for the budget session before March 8.

Informed sources said Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi is unlikely to give an early ruling on the petition seeking to disqualify the 10 BJP MLAs who had voted against the official candidate in the Rajya Sabha byelection last October.

“He has indicated that he will go strictly by the rule book and not do anything that may be challenged in a court of law,” the sources added. Tripathi was in the thick of a controversy earlier when he recognised a splinter group of the BSP which apparently did not have the one-third strength stipulated by the anti-defection law.

But there is also a belief that any precipitate action against the BJP dissidents may hasten a legal split rather than contain it “because of the widespread resentment among the upper castes, particularly the Thakurs, at the manner in which the chief minister has treated MLAs like Rajja Bhaiyya (Raghuraj Pratap Singh)”, said sources.

Of the 10 legislators under Tripathi’s scanner, five were reportedly “placated” and five “still uncertain”. “These five are waiting and watching to see if Mulayam Singh Yadav can get his act together this time and succeed in bringing down Mayavati,” the sources maintained.

Waiting in the wings are 10 to 15 more BJP MLAs who, sources identified as being “the older Thakurs” who were “resentful” that younger members of their caste were inducted as ministers while they were left to cool their heels.

Former chief minister Rajnath Singh is believed to have washed his hands of Uttar Pradesh and has indicated to the central leadership that he would prefer being a minister at the Centre. “So these are the MLAs who have been targeted by the Samajwadi Party,” said BJP sources. Some of them continue to be loyal to former BJP strongman Kalyan Singh, who has his own party, the Rashtriya Kranti Dal, with four MLAs.

However, not to be outwitted, Mayavati has set her eyes on the eight Congress legislators who form the one-third to legalise a split in the 22-member party. The Congress had 23 MLAs, but one died in an accident recently.

BJP sources said their information was that six were ready to join Mayavati. “She has promised Cabinet berths to three of them and the remaining three are Dalits who know they have a far better chance of getting re-elected from the BSP rather than from the Congress,” said sources.

This was the reason, they stressed, why the Congress signalled that it would play a more pro-active role in a future endeavour to destabilise the BJP-BSP government through recent statements issued by the AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Motilal Vora, and the national secretary, Subodh Kant Sahay, who assists him.

But there was an additional cause for the BJP optimism that Mayavati would survive a floor test. “So far, the Samajwadi’s efforts were half-hearted. They also gave the impression that they were only interested in weaning away the Thakur MLAs and not those of the other castes. This has upset the Brahmins and backward castes,” BJP sources claimed.

“Unless Mulayam himself takes the initiative this time instead of leaving things to his lieutenants there may be no forward movement.”

In the pre-rebellion days, the BJP-BSP combine was comfortably placed with 208 MLAs in the 402-member Assembly. With the fate of 10 MLAs hanging in the balance, Mayavati’s strength came down to 198 — four short of a majority.

On the other side are 183 MLAs, including 142 of the Samajwadi, 22 of the Congress, three of the Apna Dal, four of the RKD, two of the CPI and 10 “unattached” Independents. But BJP sources conceded that if the Congress came out openly in Samajwadi’s support, the shortfall could be filled in from its ranks.

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