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 may switch sides.
The four MLAs were reportedly accompanied by two others when they met the Returning Officer, submitting in writing that their signatures on senior party leader Ramji Gautam’s nomination papers were forged.
One of the rebels admitted that she met Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, while some others in the group of six — a third of BSP’s strength in the Assembly — expressed dissatisfaction over the way their own party treated them.
They, however, did not specifically target Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati.
Without taking names, a BSP leader indirectly laid the blame for the dramatic development on the SP, with which Ms. Mayawati’s party was in alliance during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The RO is yet to take a decision but if the forgery claim by four of Mr. Gautam’s 10 proposers is accepted, it could lead to his disqualification.
The BSP had on Monday fielded Mr. Gautam, its national coordinator and Bihar in-charge for the November 9 biennial elections for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats.
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 non-BJP parties.
The four MLAs who submitted an affidavit saying their signatures were forged are Aslam Raini, Aslam Chaudhary, Mujtaba Siddiqui and Hakim Lal Bind. Hargovind Bhargava and Sushma Patel also met the Returning Officer, Mr. Raini told reporters.
The scrutiny of nominations is being undertaken on Wednesday, according to the election schedule.
Mr. Raini and Mr. Siddiqui told reporters that they were unhappy with the interference of the 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.”
Allahabad MLA Siddiqui made clear that he had no complaints against Ms. Mayawati, Mr. Mujtaba said he has been with the party for 25 years and is a three-term MLA.
Shravasti MLA Aslam Raini said when he recently contracted COVID-19 and posted a video clip from the hospital, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came to his help and this was disliked by his own party men.
“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 [Ms. 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.
When asked about the future course of action, Mr. Raini said there is a general impression that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav gives respect to his party men.
There were also reports that after meeting the Returning Officer, the BSP MLAs drove to the Samajwadi Party office to meet Mr. Yadav. Later, two of them told reporters that there was no such meeting.
Ms. Sushma Patel, however, admitted meeting the SP chief who she claimed had called them. But she refused to elaborate.
Senior BSP leader and MLA Uma Shankar Singh indirectly blamed the SP for Wednesday’s developments.
Mr. Singh claimed that nomination of industrialist Prakash Bajaj for the Rajya Sabha, filled just two minutes before the deadline Tuesday, was part of a conspiracy .
Mr. Bajaj is contesting as an independent.
They are out to buy MLAs and felt why not get the nomination of the BSP candidate rejected, Mr. Singh said.
He said the rebels were with party workers till the morning and wondered what could have happened in a short while for them to change their minds.
They were with us all through the nomination process. We have sent the pictures of the nomination to the Returning Officer, he said, asserting that the MLAs were present when Mr. Gautam’s papers were filed.
If they had any objection, they should have given it to the RO by yesterday. Why now? Mr. Singh asked.
Everyone knows how this has happened. They cannot take such a big step without any allurement. They should tell how much they got, Mr. 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.
Given the overwhelming strength of the BJP in the UP Assembly, all eight candidates including Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri are expected to be elected.
Of the 10 seats, three were earlier held by the BJP, four by the SP, two by the BSP and one by the Congress.