Six BSP MLAs rebel in UP, hint they may leave Mayawati's party

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Lucknow, Oct 28 (PTI) In a jolt to the BSP on Wednesday, four of the 10 MLAs who had proposed the name of the party’s lone candidate in next month’s Rajya Sabha polls withdrew support amid hints that they and two others may switch sides.

The four accompanied two other Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs to the Samajwadi Party headquarter here and met party chief Akhilesh Yadav, said an SP MLA who did not want to be named.

But the same SP leader maintained that the group of six BSP MLAs from Uttar Pradesh could also be in touch with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The six MLAs earlier met the Returning Officer, when the four “proposers” submitted in writing that their signatures Monday on senior party leader Ramji Gautam’s nomination papers were “forged”.

One of the rebels later admitted that she met Akhilesh Yadav, while the others in the group – a third of BSP’s total strength of 18 in the state assembly -- expressed dissatisfaction over the way their own party treated them.

Asked about their future course of action, Shravasti MLA Aslam Raini said there is a general impression that Akhilesh Yadav respects his party members.

The rebels did not specifically target BSP supremo Mayawati while criticising other party leaders.

Without taking names, a BSP leader also indirectly laid the blame for the dramatic development on the SP, with which Mayawati’s party was in alliance during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

If the Returning Officer accepts the forgery claim by four of Gautam’s 10 proposers, it could lead to the BSP candidate’s disqualification.

The BSP had on Monday fielded Gautam, its national coordinator and Bihar in-charge for the November 9 biennial elections for the 10 Uttar Pradesh seats that are falling vacant in the Rajya Sabha.

The BSP doesn’t have the numbers in the assembly to win an RS seat on its own but party leaders had indicated that it may get the support of other opposition parties.

The four MLAs who submitted an affidavit saying their signatures were forged are Aslam Raini, Aslam Chaudhary, Mujtaba Siddiqui and Hakim Lal Bind.

Along with them, two others, Hargovind Bhargava and Sushma Patel, also met the Returning Officer, Raini said.

The scrutiny of nominations was being undertaken Wednesday.

Raini and Mujtaba Siddiqui told reporters that they were unhappy with the “interference” of BSP coordinators.

“There is no respect in the party for us. I complained about a personal problem recently to our leader Lalji Verma, but to no avail,” Siddiqui, who is the MLA from Pratapur in Allahabad, said. But the three-time legislator made clear that he had no complaints against Mayawati.

Shravasti MLA Aslam Raini said when he contracted coronavirus in August Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath got him admitted at a private hospital.

Both the CM and Akhilesh Yadav inquired about his health on phone, but no leader from his own party called, the MLA said.

The BSP leaders were also upset with a video clip he made during his hospital stay, Raini said.

“I was in hospital and the BSP coordinators were moving about in my constituency telling people not to meet their MLA,” he claimed.

“It’s the same problem with all six of us. Behenji (Mayawati) is not to be blamed, but the coordinators have acted in a manner which has depressed us and we thought what is the use of remaining with such a party,” the MLA said.

There were also reports that after meeting the Returning Officer, the BSP MLAs drove to the SP office to meet Yadav. Later, two of them told reporters that there was no such meeting.

Sushma Patel, however, admitted having met the SP chief who she claimed had called them. But she refused to elaborate.

Meanwhile, senior BSP leader and MLA Uma Shankar Singh claimed that nomination of industrialist Prakash Bajaj for the Rajya Sabha, filed just “two minutes” before the deadline Tuesday, was part of a “conspiracy”.

Bajaj is contesting as an independent with the SP’s support.

“They are out to buy MLAs and felt why not get the nomination of the BSP candidate rejected,” Singh alleged, apparently referring to the SP.

He said the rebels were present when Gautam filed his nomination papers. “We have sent pictures of the nomination to the Returning Officer.” “If they had any objection, they should have given it to the RO by yesterday. Why now?” Singh questioned.

“Everyone knows how this has happened. They cannot take such a big step without an allurement. They should tell how much they got,” Singh added, insinuating horse-trading of the MLAs.

Altogether, 11 candidates, including eight from the BJP, have filed their papers for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh going to the polls.

Given the overwhelming strength of the BJP in the UP Assembly, all its eight candidates, including Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, are expected to get a berth in the Rajya Sabha.

Of the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh that are falling vacant, three were earlier held by the BJP, four by the SP, two by the BSP and one by the Congress. PTI SAB SMN ASH ASH ASH