Lucknow, May 30: The stage was set today for horsetrading with the 14-member Rashtriya Lok Dal formally withdrawing support to the Mayavati government in Uttar Pradesh.
The move apparently poses no threat to the ruling BSP-BJP coalition, which is still nine ahead in the numbers battle despite dwindling to 211 in the 403-member House.
A united Opposition, including the CPM, the SJP, the NLP, the Janata Party and some Independents, will be 188-strong, with the possibility of winning over two MLAs whose affiliations are uncertain — Apna Dal’s Atique Ahmad, who is in jail, and Rae Bareli MLA Akhilesh Singh, who is absconding.
The ruling coalition’s hope now lies in splitting Ajit Singh’s RLD, though it certainly suffered the jitters today on seeing the former Union agriculture minister walking to Raj Bhavan along with Rashtriya Kranti Party chief Kalyan Singh and Samajwadi Party and Congress leaders.
BJP legislature party leader Lalji Tandon — who has virtually taken over as the acting chief minister with Mayavati away on a fortnight-long foreign tour — said the government enjoyed a safe majority. But his veiled threat to split the RLD indicated the coalition’s desperation.
Earlier in the day, after handing over the letter of withdrawal to Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri, Ajit Singh claimed his move would not only topple the ruling coalition but also help form an alternative government.
Ajit Singh held closed-door talks with Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Kalyan and AICC general secretary Naval Kishore Sharma after his legislature party and office-bearers passed the resolution on withdrawing support. Later, accompanied by Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh and Sharma, Ajit Singh called on the Governor to demand that Mayavati prove her majority at a special session of the Assembly.
“The countdown has begun and Mayavati should now count hours, not days,” an ebullient Amar Singh said. He hinted that several BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party dissidents would cross over at the opportune moment.
Independent observers ruled out any dramatic change till Mayavati’s return on June 11. But they agreed the stage was ready for an intense battle between the ruling combine and the Opposition to lure each other’s supporters. Amar Singh fuelled the speculation when he claimed that three dozen BJP dissidents had approached him. A chunk of BSP MLAs, too, was prepared to switch sides, he said.
Tandon countered the claim with his warning about “half-a-dozen RLD MLAs (who) were ready to revolt against Ajit Singh”.
Amid claims and counter-claims, the spotlight turned to the nine RLD MLAs who were holed up in Madhya Pradesh’s hill resort of Panchmarhi, away from prying eyes and poachers.
Though the Congress and the Samajwadi have agreed to join hands with Ajit Singh to fight the coalition, they are wary about how the RLD flock will behave in the days to come when horsetrading will peak.
Kalyan, who played a key role in bringing the Congress, Samajwadi and RLD leaders together, described the day’s developments as “the beginning of the end” of Mayavati.