6 rebel BSP MLAs meet SP chief, may join party
Six suspended Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) lawmakers on Tuesday met Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, who said the rebel legislators will join his party ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh scheduled early next year.
Yadav acknowledged that a meeting did take place, but did not elaborate on what transpired and how many rebels met him. He also ruled out any alliances with the Congress or the BSP in the assembly polls.
The BSP had 18 MLAs in the UP assembly, but 11 of them were either suspended or expelled. Earlier this month, BSP supremo Mayawati expelled BSP’s legislative party leader, Lalji Verma, and Akbarpur MLA, Ram Achal Rajbhar.
“They (BSP rebels) will join the Samajwadi Party in the time to come,” Yadav told a TV news channel. The SP chief said many senior leaders of different parties met him while others were in touch with other SP leaders. “They all want to join the SP and contest elections,” Yadav said.
SP leaders said at least six suspended BSP MLAs, including Bhinga MLA Mohd Aslam Raini and Mungra Badshahpur MLA Sushma Patel met Yadav at the party headquarters in Lucknow.
Some of the rebel lawmakers said they were looking to form a separate party that could ally with the SP, which currently has 48MLAs in the 403-member assembly.
The moves come amid political churning in a state gearing up for assembly polls. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is facing internal dissension and criticism over its handling of the second Covid wave and there are indications that sections of the Opposition are consolidating behind the SP, which outperformed the BJP in the recently concluded rural body polls.
Raini told PTI that they could form a party or join an outfit without attracting provisions of the anti-defection law -- which bars legislators from switching parties if they are less than two-thirds of the party’s strength in the House -- only if they reach 12.
“As of now, if we go to any party or take the membership of any political party, our membership of the UP legislative assembly will cease to exist under the anti defection law,” he said.
“Personally, I have made up my mind to join the Samajwadi Party,” she told PTI.
This is not the first time that a batch of rebel BSP MLAs has met Yadav. In October last year, seven BSP lawmakers had opposed the nomination of the BSP’s official candidate, Ramji Gautam, for the Rajya Sabha elections. Many of them had then met Yadav in a group. The six MLAs who met Yadav on Tuesday were part of that group.
Deputy leader of the BSP in the assembly, Uma Shankar Singh said, “The BSP had already suspended them... The BSP does not want to waste its energy by initiating action against them. The BSP is preparing to form the government in UP after the assembly elections.”
Yadav said the people of UP want the BJP government out. “People are distressed over corruption, Covid mismanagement, and the SP will win,” he claimed.
But the SP chief ruled out any alliance with bigger parties. “The experience with both the Congress (in 2017 assembly polls) and the BSP (in 2019 Lok Sabha elections) was bitter. We will ally with small parties,” he said.
Experts said the developments would further weaken the BSP, which has seen a steady stream of desertion in recent months. It would also widen the rift between the two regional heavyweights that fought the 2019 general elections together but fell apart after an underwhelming performance.
There had been a steady exodus of senior and junior leaders, office-bearers, former legislators from BSP to SP since 2019. If these MLAs join the SP, it will be a blow to Mayawati’s outfit and strengthen the SP’s Dalit outreach.
The ruling BJP said the developments will not have any impact on the polls.
SK Dwivedi, former head of the department of political sciences at Lucknow University, said: “If a total of at least 12 form a party, then it will be two-thirds of the total strength of the BSP and in this case, anti-defection law won’t apply”.