The Samajwadi Party nominated Amar Singh to the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, hinting at the return of the erstwhile influential leader less than a year before state polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Amar Singh – a former aide of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav – was named one of the party’s seven Rajya Sabha nominees at the parliamentary board meeting.
Other prominent names nominated included Beni Prasad Verma, who switched from the Congress last week.
Amar Singh was expelled from the SP in 2009 following a long-standing feud within the party over his flashy lifestyle and hobnobbing with celebrities. But the 60-year-old Singh is considered a fund-raising powerhouse known for his close ties to Bollywood stars and industrialists.
The SP is looking at a tough election next year in arguably India’s most politically crucial state. Uttar Pradesh’s ruling party is battling mounting anti-incumbency with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav saddled with charges of corruption and slow development. A resurgent BJP and regional rival Bahujan Samaj Party are gearing up for to topple the SP administration next year.
With Amar Singh and Verma, Mulayam has attempted to reach out to the Kurmi and Thakur communities that might play a key role in elections to the 403-member assembly next year.
As per the existing strength of different parties in the assembly, SP with 227 MLAs will be able to get six nominees elected to the Rajya Sabha, the BSP two and the BJP one.
Sources said Mulayam decided to nominate Amar Singh after the party parliamentary board was divided.
Sources said national general secretary, Ramgopal Yadav and the party’s Muslim face, Azam Khan, were opposed to the idea but SP state-in-charge Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and senior board member Kironmoy Nanda favoured the 60-year-old leader.
“There was no opposition to Amar Singh’s name, all the names have been finalised with consensus,” said Shivpal Yadav
When asked if the RS candidature also meant re-induction, Shivpal said, “Amar lives in Netaji’s heart….we had earlier sent Congress leaders Pramod Tiwari and PL Punia to Rajya Sabha.”
When asked if Amar Singh and his aide Jaya Prada will come back to the party, Shivpal said, “Time will tell.”
The six others named SP candidates for the Rajya Sabha are Verma, Sanjay Seth, Sukhram Singh Yadav, Reoti Raman Singh, Vishambhar Prasad Nishad and Arvind Pratap Singh.
Amar Singh switched from the Congress to the SP in 1996 and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha that year for the first time. He remained in the Upper House for almost two decades until his recent term ended in 2014.
Amar Singh launched his party in 2011 but fared poorly in the next year’s state polls. He and Jaya Prada joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in 2014 but lost their Lok Sabha contests.
Biennial elections to 11 Rajya Sabha and 13 Legislative Council seats in UP are due in June. The Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad seats will fall vacant on July 4 and July 6 respectively.