Several turncoats featured in the BJP’s first list of 149 candidates announced for the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Monday evening, hours after a Samajwadi Party lawmaker from Unnao joined the party.
The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) also fielded all the sitting lawmakers from the state, except Varanasi and Lucknow, the Lok Sabha constituencies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Rajnath Singh.
The party would possibly discuss the two seats at its central election committee meeting on Tuesday.
Among the deserters, the party fielded former BSP leaders Mahavir Rana from Behat, Dharam Singh Saini from Nakud, former UP minister Raja Aridaman Singh’s wife Pakshalika Singh from Agra’s Bah seat.
It also gave tickets to former Congress leaders Vinod Tejiyan from Rampur Maniharan (reserved) seat, Pradeep Chaudhary from Gangoh.
Earlier in the day, Unnao legislator Kuldeep Sengar joined the BJP in the presence of its UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya in Delhi.
Sengar is a relative of UP minister Arvind Singh Gope, an Akhilesh loyalist.
The move seems part of a BJP plan to weaken Akhilesh Yadav faction of the Samajwadi Party that has emerged stronger in the intense battle over the control of the UP’s ruling party.
The buzz is that several more lawmakers from the SP, fearing that their prospects will be hit by the internal feud in the party, are bargaining hard with the BJP for tickets.
Two days ago, the BJP got into its fold former UP minister and five-time MLA from Agra’s Bah assembly seat Raja Aridaman Singh, who joined the party with his wife Pakshalika Singh.
Aridaman had secured a SP ticket from both Akhilesh and Shivpal Yadav factions of the party. His wife Pakshalika too was given ticket by the SP for the UP polls.
Keshav Prasad Maurya confirmed that several leaders from various parties are in touch with them. But none have set any preconditions, he claimed.
“All of them are aware that only BJP can take the state forward,” Maurya said.
Meanwhile, the BSP expelled Amarpal Sharma, its MLA from Sahibabad (Ghaziabad) on Monday.
The BJP also inducted into its fold former BSP minister RK Patel and Congress’s Kanpur district president Abhijeet Singh Sanga giving some anxious moments to party loyalists who fear that they may lose the race for the party ticket to ‘outsiders’.
Political experts are still unsure if the BJP’s move to accommodate turncoats at the last moment could be beneficial.
“In the 2012 UP polls, the BJP had inducted several BSP discards at the last moment. But the move didn’t pay off then. As BJP goes all out to win UP, it remains to be seen if last minute inductions would pay off this time,” said SK Dwivedi, a political expert.
Of the several BSP ministers who had switched over to the BJP then, the membership of one, Babu Singh Kushwaha, had to be put on hold after a furore following his alleged involvement in the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam. The rest of them had lost their deposits.