A threat to the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate’s prospects in the November 9 Rajya Sabha elections seemed to blow over on Wednesday evening but the party faced the spectre of a split over Mayawati’s alleged bid to seek BJP support for her nominee.
Five rebel MLAs from the BSP had met Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav twice on Wednesday, and in between visited the Assembly to claim they had never signed on BSP candidate Ramji Gautam’s nomination form as proposers.
They told the returning officer their signatures had been forged during Tuesday’s nomination. Each candidate needed 10 proposers.
“Mayawati didn’t consult us before seeking BJP support for Gautam. We are not her property, and we never signed Gautam’s nomination form,” Hakim Lal Bind, one of the rebels, told reporters.
Mayawati has recently appeared to have softened towards the BJP, offering token criticism over the Hathras atrocity and tacit support on the citizenship amendment and the abrogation of Article 370 last year.
Apart from the five rebels — Bind, Aslam Rain, Aslam Ali, Muztaba Siddiqui and Hargovind Bhargav — a sixth party MLA, Sushma Patel, was present at the day’s second meeting between the BSP dissidents and Akhilesh.
Late in the evening, however, the returning officer handed Mayawati a boost, clearing Gautam’s nomination and rejecting that of his main rival, Independent candidate Prakash Bajaj, who has threatened to move court.
With only 10 candidates left and 10 Rajya Sabha seats up for grabs from the state, each nominee is expected to win uncontested barring a court order in favour of Bajaj.
With 11 candidates in the fray originally, and the Assembly’s current strength being 395, each candidate had needed 36 votes to win. The BJP, which has 304 members, had fielded 8 candidates and therefore had 16 spare votes. The Samajwadis, who have 48 members, had fielded Ramgopal Yadav and had 12 extra votes.
Mayawati had only 18 members and needed a further 18 votes. There was speculation that the BJP had promised her its spare votes as well as votes from ally Apna Dal (9 members) and three friendly Independents.
With the 8 BJP candidates and Ramgopal assured victories barring massive cross-voting, the fight for the last seat till Wednesday evening seemed to be between Gautam and Bajaj, an industrialist and political rookie whose proposers included several Samajwadi members.
BSP lawmaker Uma Shankar Singh accused the rebels of being “lured” by Bajaj.
Bind said: “Mayawati doesn’t care for us. The party’s district coordinators misbehave with us. But Akhilesh calls us and enquires about our well-being. Even chief minister Yogi Adityanath helps us on occasion. But our own party ignores us.”
Samajwadi lawmaker Udai Veer Singh said the BSP rebels had told him they were unhappy because Mayawati “was trying to get closer to the BJP”.