- 9 expelled BSP MLAs met Akhilesh Yadav amid rumours of cross over
- BSP MLAs switching sides makes for very good optics for Akhilesh Yadav
- Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are less than a year away
Six MLAs of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) met with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav this morning amid reports that they are on the verge of crossing over to the rival party in a shake-up bound to impact political equations ahead of the Uttar Pradesh election next year.
The group makes a third of Mayawati's 18 MLAs, most of them expelled over the last four years. After meeting with Akhilesh Yadav, they said their problem was not with their boss but her deputy Satish Mishra. They also indicated that their options are open and joining the Samajwadi Party was only one of them.
"We do not have a problem with Mayawati. We have a problem with Satish Mishra; he is the one who misbehaved with our senior leaders Ram Achal Rajbhar and Lalji Verma," said Aslam Raini told news agency ANI.
The MLAs expelled by Mayawati include Aslam Raini, Aslam Ali Chowdhari, Muztaba Siddiqui, Hakim Lal Bind, Hargobind Bhargav, Sushma Patel, Vandana Singh, Ramvir Upadhyay and Anil Singh
Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar, the BSP's senior most MLAs, were expelled recently for anti-party activities. They were among the most visible faces of the BSP. Mr Verma was the legislature party leader in the UP assembly and Mr Rajbhar is a former state BSP chief; he was a minister in previous Mayawati governments. They were both accused of damaging the BSP in recent panchayat elections.
These two leaders did not meet with Akhilesh Yadav today but the rebels said they considered Lalji Verma their leader. "We are 11 MLAs. If we get one more MLA we can form our own party and that is what we want to do. Our leader will be Lalji Verma and he will decide the name and other details of the party," Mr Raini said.
The BSP won 19 seats in the 2017 assembly election and lost one in a by-election. Eleven have been expelled since.
Seven rebelled during the Rajya Sabha polls last year and were expelled. That leaves the party with only seven MLAs. The expelled MLAs have not been disqualified yet.
For now at least, the BSP seems to be disintegrating, and having a section of the party cross over to his side makes for very good optics for Akhilesh Yadav ahead of state elections less than a year away.
The former Chief Minister lost power in a massive BJP sweep in 2017, after which Yogi Adityanath took over the top post. As he heads to another election, Mr Yadav is keen to project his party as the main rival to the ruling BJP.
"People are meeting Akhilesh Yadav ahead of the assembly elections because the Samajwadi Party is a welcoming space unlike the oppressive nature of Mayawati and even the BJP. BSP and BJP MLAs are scared of expressing themselves, that is why they are coming to the SP," said Samajwadi Party MLA Irfan Solanki.
He added that "every leader, irrespective of party, has a ground base" and the Samajwadi could definitely capitalise on the connect of the BSP's MLAs.
The BSP's loss is Samajwadi's gain. In the last two years, especially after the SP-BSP's alliance flopped miserably in 2019, several BSP leaders have switched to the Samajwadi Party.