Putting in its biggest election effort, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is going to field candidates on more than 300 seats in UP for the first time.
This number may be more than that of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) which is contesting on 298 seats leaving 105 seats for the Congress, its poll ally.
Ajit Singh’s party has ventured out of its political home turf in western UP and aggressively fielded candidates in unchartered territory as well.
The party has already put up 296 candidates through 14 lists that were released one after another since January 20. The RLD chief is said to be working on some more seats which may be announced in a couple of days.
“We will certainly release more lists,” RLD spokesman Anil Dubey said.
“We will contest as many seats as possible to form the next government in the state,” he said.
Its previous biggest effort was in 2007 when the party fielded candidates on 254 seats and won 10 of them, getting 3.70% of the valid votes polled in the state. Then also the RLD was going it alone.
In the 2002 assembly election, the RLD had a pre-poll understanding with the BJP and contested only 38 seats but won 14 out of them getting 2.48% of the valid votes. The party contested 46 seats in the last assembly election in 2012 when it had a pre-poll alliance with the Congress. It won nine seats and got 2.33% of the total valid votes.
What is significant is that the RLD is not only contesting the maximum number of seats this time despite the uncertainty about the alliance till the last moment, but has also fielded candidates in all the regions, including Bundelkhand and Purvanchal. The party has fielded candidates on all the eight seats in Lucknow and other constituencies in the Awadh region to the surprise of many.
Ajit Singh’s bid to contest maximum number of seats all over the state is being seen as a part of his political strategy to shun the tag of the RLD being a party of western UP only.
Ajit Singh has already said publicly that his party will be playing a key role in the formation of the next government in the state.
“Ajit Singh’s whole effort by contesting maximum number of seats is to maximise his bargaining power in the event of a hung assembly after the election results,” said SK Sharma, a professor of political science at Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.
“Moreover, the move will also help the RLD claim an all-UP party status if it manages some seats or even a good vote share in some constituencies in Purvanchal, Avadh and Bundelkhand, beyond its pocket borough,” he added.
It is probably with this calculation in mind that Ajit Singh flung his party’s door open to virtually anyone who wanted to contest elections on his party’s symbol. The RLD became a refuge for the rebels of other parties. At least half- a-dozen ruling SP MLAs, who did not get tickets, are contesting as the RLD’s official candidates.
It is perhaps because of this desperation that Ajit Singh did not mind giving tickets to or taking into his party musclemen like Guddu Pandit and Uma Kant Yadav.
Apart from this, Ajit Singh, according to sources, also is fuming at many political parties for the way they treated him and he now wants to show them that he or his party cannot be taken for granted.
“The political parties humiliated us either by asking us to merge or treating us as a political untouchable when the question of forming an alliance came up,” said an RLD leader, adding, “We are trying to avenge that humiliation by going it alone with all the vigour in the elections and will complete the revenge when it comes to the formation of the next government because no such government will be possible without our support.”