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BSP splits, rebels join SP

LUCKNOW Sept. 6. The Samajwadi Party today received a boost with the Bahujan Samaj Party suffering a vertical split and 37 of its MLAs deciding to merge with the SP. Rajendra Singh Rana, the BSP MLA from Deoband in Saharanpur district and leader of the group, has written to the Assembly Speaker, Kesrinath Tripathi, that there were six more MLAs in the group bringing its strength to 43.

The SP's strength after the merger would increase to 181 in the 401-member Assembly. The BSP, which has so far enjoyed the status of the main Opposition party, would now be relegated to the third position.

While the suspense over the rebels' real strength had prevailed for the past several days, the developments took a dramatic turn this evening when 37 BSP MLAs drove to the Assembly to meet the Speaker. Mr. Rana handed over a letter to Mr. Tripathi claiming that on August 26 the MLAs led by him had formed a separate group, fed up with the "dictatorial style" of the former Chief Minister, Mayawati. She was used to "misbehaving" with the MLAs, the letter added. The splinter group with more than one-third of the total number of BSP MLAs should be recognised as a separate party to be known as the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal, Mr. Rana said.

The Speaker informed the MLAs that the BSP leader, Swami Prasad Maurya, had also given him a letter requesting that he personally verify the signature of each and every MLA whose name could be included by any group claiming a split in the party.

Mr. Tripathi accordingly called the name of every MLA and at the end announced that all the 37 MLAs were physically present before him and that they clarified that they had themselves signed the letter handed over to him by Mr. Rana. The Speaker said the BSP legislature group leader had also written to him to hear him before giving his verdict on any claim of a split in the party. Mr. Tripathi said he would first hear Mr. Maurya's pleas and decide on the matter tonight.

Mr. Rana then gave Mr. Tripathi another letter stating that the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal had decided to merge with the SP and that there were six more MLAs in his group, who were not present personally today, but would verify their signatures later before the Speaker.

The BSP rebels seemed to have taken due care to circumvent the party move to disqualify under the Anti-Defection Act 13 MLAs who had gone to the Governor, Vishnu Kant Shastri, on August 27 to plead the case of Mr. Mulayam Singh who had staked claim to form the Government.

The rebels have gone on record that the split in the party had already taken place on August 26.

Today's developments are likely to bring a qualitative change in the State politics in the State. With the addition of the BSP splinter group, Mr. Yadav can now afford to function more independently.

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