Lucknow: In a twist worthy of the unpredictable politics of Uttar Pradesh, a man Mayawati had jailed when she was chief minister contributed to her defeat in the race for a lone Rajya Sabha seat. Raja Bhaiyya or Raghuraj Pratap Singh, an independent lawmaker who has been associated both with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party BSP) and the Samajwadi Party, made it crystal clear that he held the cards.
"Our vote is with the Samajwadi Party, with Akhilesh Yadav. We have an old opposition to Mayawati. We are not with her and that is clear," Raja Bhaiyya told reporters. But after casting his vote for the Rajya Sabha polls, he called on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of the BJP, raising a red alert in the SP-BSP camp.
Akhilesh Yadav had earlier tweeted his thanks.
Raja Bhaiyya claimed he was not bothered that the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati have set aside their differences and united against a common enemy, the BJP. Or that the Samajwadi Party is supporting Mayawati's candidate with the surplus votes it has after its own guaranteed seat. He said that he was going to vote for the SP and not the BSP.
Thank you for supporting Samajwadi Party. pic.twitter.com/OZve4X1WV3Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) March 23, 2018
The BJP won nine Rajya Sabha seats, dashing Mayawati's hope for one seat. The SP's Jaya Bachchan won a single seat.
The Samajwadi party supported Mayawati's candidate, in exchange for her support in the bypolls days ago. But just eight SP votes were not enough for BSP. It needed the vote of two independents, including Raja Bhaiyya.
Raja Bhaiyya made it clear his vote would go to Jaya Bachchan. "SP's candidate is separate, BSP's is separate," he firmly told reporters, folding his hands.
Raja Bhaiyya, a well-known strongman of UP with several cases against him, was jailed in 2002 by the Mayawati government. The charges were dropped the moment Mulayam Singh Yadav - Akhilesh's father - came to power in 2003.
Raja Bhaiyya was made minister when Akhilesh Yadav came to power in 2012. Mr Yadav defended his minister, accusing his predecessor Mayawati of filing false cases.
Despite his dodgy record, Raja Bhaiyya's political career has been unaffected. He has won elections from his home-base Kunda in Pratapgarh since 1993.