The Extra Man: As Akhilesh Springs a Surprise in Rajya Sabha Polls, Will BJP Come to Mayawati's Rescue

Pranshu Mishra
·4-min read

An 11th candidate showing up at the 11th hour has spiced up the Uttar Pradesh Rajya Sabha polls for 10 seats. Things took a curious turn when an independent candidate backed by the Samajwadi Party filed his nomination papers on Tuesday, throwing a spanner in the works for the Bahujan Samaj Party, which was seeking a seat for its nominee.

If lawyer Prakash Bajaj had not filed his papers at the last minute, all the candidates— 8 from the Bharatiya Janata Party and 1 each from the SP and BSP— would have been elected uncontested on November 9. With 11 candidates in the fray, the BSP with just 18 MLAs in the assembly will have to seek extra votes to ensure the victory of its candidate. These may have to come from the National Democratic Alliance’s kitty of 17 surplus votes of the BJP and Apna Dal left after ensuring the victory of 8 nominees.

The BSP has fielded its national coordinator Ramji Gautam for the one seat it is contesting.

The fact that the BJP had sought to nominate only 8 candidates for the elections had set the grapevine abuzz in Lucknow of the party conceding one seat to Mayawati. With some effort, the NDA could have easily managed to get another candidate to the Rajya Sabha as it did the last time around in 2018 when the BJP ensured the victory of a 9th candidate by defeating BSP pick Bhimrao Ambedkar.

That Rajya Sabha polls happened just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as the BSP and SP were preparing to test the waters for a statewide tie-up. The SP supported the BSP nominee with its surplus MLAs but the BJP managed to get an independent candidate elected.

This perceived bonhomie between the BSP and BJP for the Rajya Sabha polls has raised questions on whether the two parties are preparing the ground before the 2022 UP assembly polls.

The Samajwadi Party has officially made it clear that the BSP didn’t approach it before fielding a candidate. SP MLC Udayveer Dhakre told News 18, “The BSP didn’t have any consultation with our party for fielding its candidate. The SP with 47 members in the House has Professor Ram Gopal Yadav as one official candidate. The party will also try to ensure a win for the supported independent candidate.” No doubt by bringing in an independent in the electoral battle, the SP has tried to disturb the strategy of the rivals.

While the BSP has been silent so far about its arithmetic behind entering the Rajya Sabha contest, the BJP is guarded in its position. The party says with its given strength of 304 MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha, it could only ensure the win of eight candidates. The party has made union minister Hardeep Puri, Arun Singh, Haridwar Dubey, former UP DGP Brij Lal, Neeraj Shekhar, Geeta Shakya, BL Verma and Seema Dwivedi as its nominees.

To win the election, a candidate needs 37 votes of first preference. After allocating these many votes to the eight nominees the BJP-led alliance will be left with 17 surplus votes. The ninth candidate would have fallen short by around 19 first preference votes, even after taking 9 MLAs from ally Apna Dal into account.

The BJP’s state vice-president and MLC Vijay Bahadur Pathak says, “We have fielded candidates depending upon our strength. The party does not want to comment on speculation. We will now decide our voting strategy as per the given circumstances."

It should be recalled that in 2018, when the BSP fielded Bhimrao Ambedkar with an understanding with the SP, the BJP had brought in Anil Agarwal as an independent candidate.

In the intense electoral contest that followed, Agarwal won, defeating Ambedkar by the second preference votes. That was the time when SP and BSP were headed for an alliance against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

This time around, if the 11th candidate had not entered the race, the BSP’s Gautam would have won unopposed. Thus, technically, the BSP would not have required the BJP’s votes, a situation that would have suited the two to carry on with the perceived friendly political fight in the public domain.

To political observers, BSP chief Mayawati’s soft approach towards the BJP, often being harsher towards parties like the Congress and the SP, has been quite apparent. Since the time Mayawati walked out of the grand alliance with the Samajwadi Party following the 2019 polls, the BSP has not taken a strident political position against the state and the central government on key issues.

By forcing an election, the SP is trying to get the NDA to come to the rescue of the BSP nominee with surplus votes.