Dinner diplomacy is at its best, as major political parties are busy counting their bad eggs ahead of voting for the 13 Vidhan Parishad and 11 Rajya Sabha seats scheduled to take place here on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
As voting for 13 Vidhan Parishad seats takes place a day before the Saturday’s Rajya Sabha polling, parties can keep a close watch on the pattern of voting on Friday and review their strategy accordingly.
Barring the BSP that has about 12 surplus votes for the Rajya Sabha, the candidates of all other parties – the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the BJP supported independent candidate Preeti Mahapatra –have to make arrangements for extra votes. The BSP with 80 MLAs is yet to clear suspense over its surplus votes and speculations are rife over possible scenarios.
As BSP’s Bala Prasad Awasthi, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Pal Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party’s Fateh Bahadur and Apna Dal’s RK Verma are among the proposers of BJP supported candidate Preeti Mahapatra, all the parties are also making attempts to lure MLAs of other parties and the independents.
The Samajwadi Party with a strength 229 MLAs would need at least 10 more votes (Ram Pal Yadav may go with Mahapatra). While the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s move to transfer its 8 votes may have come as a breather to the SP and the Congress, the possibility of crossing voting within their own ranks and attempts for poaching by the rivals are giving sleepless nights to their poll managers.
The SP also has support from some smaller parties and the independents. Absence of its nearly 15 to 20 MLAs at the dinner hosted by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday has sent alarm bells ringing in the party’s camp.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav exuded confidence about the victory of party’s candidates saying, “See as far as the Samajwadi Party is concerned we know we are winning. We are in favor of fair polls. But as far as the horse trading charges go, tell me who is responsible for it? One should not become too ambitious.”
Alarm bells are also ringing in Congress camp as the party with 29 MLAs needs at least six additional votes to ensure victory of its Rajya Sabha candidate Kapil Sibal. Absence of three to four MLAs at both the Congress Legislature Party meeting and subsequent dinner hosted by CLP leader Pradeep Mathur on Wednesday raised serious concerns in party circles.
As one of the MLAs is undergoing treatment at Mumbai, the party is making arrangements for a chartered plane or air ambulance to enable the legislator reach Lucknow for voting at the earliest. Mathur has also exuded confidence about victory of party’s candidates in Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad polls and said there were no possibilities of any cross voting by the party MLAs.
The party, however, has decided to host another dinner for its legislators on Thursday to ensure that all of them reach Lucknow for voting. The BSP and the BJP are also holding dinners for their legislators.