BJP backs Gujarat's Preeti in UP RS election, SP-BSP cross-voting likely
The Bharatiya Janata Party set the cat among the pigeons when it decided to support the candidature of Preeti Mahapatra for a Rajya Sabha seat from Uttar Pradesh.
This comes after the party had already announced Shiv Pratap Shukla as its official candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat.
Preeti, wife of Gujarat-based businessman Harihar Mahapatra, filed her nomination in Lucknow on Tuesday, 31 May.
Although she has decided to take the UP route to the Rajya Sabha as an independent candidate, her Gujarat background and involvement with the Narendra Modi Vichar Manch indicates that the BJP clearly wants to queer the pitch for some political parties in the state.
Preeti, who runs an NGO linked to the Prime Minister's cleanliness mission, did not reply to a reporter's question on her association with the Modi Vichar Manch.
The state of the Assembly
With an election inevitable, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are fearful that there will be some cross-voting, as the BJP does not have enough votes of its own to ensure Preeti's victory.
The BJP has 41 MLAs in the UP Assembly, and 34 first preference votes are required to see a candidate through.
After official candidate Shukla filed his nomination on Monday, the party has only seven votes to spare for Preeti, and needs another 27 votes.
The Samajwadi Party has 229 MLAs, the BSP has 80, the Congress 29, Rashtriya Lok Dal eight, Peace Party four, while the Qaumi Ekta Dal has two MLAs. There are six independents and one member each from the Trinamool Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Millat Council and Apna Dal.
So, how will Preeti garner these 27 votes? That is for her to manage, said BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
But those who extended their support at the time of her nomination give an idea of what to expect from the election. They included BJP's Bala Prasad Awasthi, as proposer, Samajwadi Party's recently-expelled MLA Ram Kumar Yadav, Apna Dal's RK Verma and Fateh Bahadur Singh of the Nationalist Congress Party.
With 229 MLAs, the ruling party nominated six candidates, and also decided to field former BSP MP Surendra Nagar, a Gujjar leader, as its seventh candidate.
The party is nine votes short of ensuring Nagar's victory, while even Congress candidate Kapil Sibal is banking on its support.
Sibal said at the time of filing his nomination said that he has the support of all the parties. Congress, which has 29 MLAs, still needs five for Sibal's victory.
Speculation is rife that the BSP, which has 12 extra MLAs after nominating two candidates, and the SP might see cross voting and horse-trading to scuttle Sibal's chances.
This is the first time 10 years that an actual election will be held for a Rajya Sabha seat. The date for withdrawal of nominations is 3 June, while the election is to be held on 10 June.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma