Lucknow: Facing a tight contest for one Rajya Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati's party on Wednesday closely monitored the guests at a Samajwadi Party meeting and dinner.
- Mayawati's party needs Samajwadi Party help for Rajya Sabha contest
- Absence of some SP leaders from meet had cast doubts on their support
- Their attendance later cleared concerns for now but hurdles may remain
After a scare for Mayawati, the Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmakers who had skipped the meeting in the morning arrived hours later for a dinner hosted by party chief Akhilesh Yadav at a luxury hotel in Lucknow. The lawmakers, led by Akhilesh Yadav's estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav, said they would vote for the SP and Mayawati's BSP.
This was Shivpal Yadav's first public appearance with his nephew Akhilesh in over a year. Shivpal Yadav had hinted at the rapprochement when he made it a point to credit Akhilesh Yadav's leadership for the party's success in snatching the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats from the ruling BJP. They also sat next to each other for most of the dinner, chatting and posing for the cameras.
The only legislator who skipped both meetings was Nitin Agrawal, the son of Naresh Agrawal, who quit the SP and shifted to the BJP recently after being denied a Rajya Sabha seat. Agrawal Junior was seen at a meeting of BJP leaders, described as a "dry-run" for the Rajya Sabha election.
SP's support is critical for Mayawati on Friday, when Uttar Pradesh decides on 10 of 31 Rajya Sabha seats.
There are nine BJP candidates, one from the SP and another from the BSP. The BJP has 311 MLAs, so it is assured that at least eight of its nine candidates will win.
The Samajwadi Party has 47, so its sole candidate should win -- and it will have 10 to spare.
As part of a quid pro quo that involved BSP's support to Samajwadi candidates in the UP Lok Sabha bypolls, Akhilesh Yadav's lawmakers will support Mayawati's lone candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls. The rivals set aside their 25-year bitter history and pulled off an incredible win for Samajwadi candidates in two BJP strongholds.
Mayawati has 19 MLAs and needs another 18 to hit 37 -- the magic number. If all 10 of the Samajwadi Party's extra votes come to her (that is, SP's lawmakers obey the party instruction), she gets 29. The Congress has guaranteed her its seven.
Ajit Singh's party has offered to back her with its one vote and a second vote from the Nishad Party, if it comes through as promised by the party's chief, would make up for the loss of Nitin Agrawal.
Closing the gap had seemed challenging for Mayawati as seven SP lawmakers skipped Akhilesh Yadav's meeting.
Mayawati now has to hope that there is no cross-voting or defection. Last year, at least seven legislators close to Shivpal Yadav had voted in favour of the BJP's nominee Ram Nath Kovind. The BJP has fielded a ninth candidate, businessman Anil Agarwal, thus endangering the BSP's Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
The party has 28 extra lawmakers to take a shot at the 10th seat, but it needs nine more votes.
For the BJP's success, ally Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party is key. On Tuesday, Amit Shah was able to persuade the sulking party to get its four lawmakers to support the BJP after it skipped the one-year celebration of the state's Yogi Adityanath government.