UP cross-voters switch sides: Hindu MLAs land up in BJP, Muslims in BSP
With the 2017 Assembly elections around the corner, Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a game of musical chairs. Rebels belonging to different political parties are scrambling to join rival parties in a bid to remain relevant.
Then, on Thursday, 11 August, three BSP legislators switched allegiance to the BJP. The saffron party's state president, Keshav Prasad Maurya, accepted their membership at a public function in Lucknow.
Interestingly, the three Congress MLAs who joined the BSP on Wednesday are Muslims, while the ones who accepted the BJP's membership are all Hindus. Congress's Nawab Kazim Ali, Dr Mohammad Muslim and Dilnawaz Khan walked over to the BSP in the presence of senior BSP leaders Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Opposition leader Gaya Charan Dinkar.
If these developments are anything to go by, it seems that Muslim leaders are clearly favouring the BSP over the Samajwadi, while the choice of Hindu legislators remains an obvious one.
It also suggests that the battle for UP is likely to be a showdown between these two parties, while the Congress and the SP are likely to fight for the third and fourth spot.
The Congress, however, doesn't seem shaken by the sequence of events. It said these six legislators had been expelled by the party for cross-voting during the recent Rajya Sabha elections. Ironically, three of the rebel Muslim legislators had voted in favour of the BSP, which eventually came to the rescue of Congress candidate Kapil Sibal, who was struggling to get the numbers to secure a seat from UP.
Even the other three Congress candidates who switched allegiance to the BJP had cross-voted during the Rajya Sabha polls and had been expelled. Senior leaders are downplaying the incident, and say it is not as big a setback as being made out by the media.
"It was a matter of time before these individuals switched loyalties, and we are not paying much attention to it. We are busy preparing for the election campaign, and there is a new found vigour in our cadres. We are certain to find a better replacement for these individuals. Whosoever is calling it a setback should do some fact-checking before making such statements. The party had expelled these six MLAs in June, and it was widely reported. Their joining these political parties was a foregone conclusion," said a Congress leader from Lucknow.
Shot in the arm for BSP
Apart from these three MLAs, the BSP was also successful in poaching SP leader Nawazish Alam Khan, the MLA from Budhana in Muzzafarnagar.
The entry of these sitting legislators should be a major shot in the arm for the party, which recently saw two of its veteran leaders - Swami Prasad Maurya and RK Chaudhary - quit the party.
Moreover, the BSP has been successful in persuading former BJP minister Awadhesh Verma to join the party, and his arrival was announced by senior leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
The BJP, too, is upbeat with the recent developments, considering it managed to bag six sitting MLAs from the Congress, the BSP and the SP. All these six MLAs had cross-voted during the Rajya Sabha elections, and had been expelled by their respective parties.
From the Congress, Sanjay Prasad Jaiswal, Vijay Dubey and Madhuri Verma walked over to the BJP, while SP's Sher Bahadur and BSP's Harvinder Kumar, Rajesh Tripathi and Bala Prasad Awasthi too were given the membership of the party.
More to come?
Political observers in Lucknow are not ruling out the possibility of more incidents of poaching before India's most populous state goes to the polls in 2017. They point at reports from the ground, which they claim suggest more such turncoats approaching the BSP, considering its rise in popularity in the wake of recent incidents.
Ever since former BJP state vice-president Dayashankar Singh compared Mayawati to a prostitute, experts say UP has been witnessing consolidation of lower caste voters, who are now rooting for the BSP chief.
This should certainly be a cause of concern for the BJP, which is aiming to repeat its remarkable performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
As things stand right now, it seems very unlikely, unless they rake up communal passions, as it did in 2014.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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