Even as principal opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav is attempting to corner the Uttar Pradesh government over its purported failures on health and law and order issues, he is battling trouble in his own backyard.
Ashok Bajpai, a founding member of SP and a close aide of party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, today formally joined ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of union home minister and Lucknow Member of Parliament (MP) Rajnath Singh.
Interestingly, Bajpai had fought Rajnath in the 2014 Lok Sabha election as SP candidate.
Besides, SP women wing former president Shweta Singh also joined the BJP, apart from a prominent traders’ leader.
On August 9, Bajpai had resigned from his Uttar Pradesh legislative council (MLC) seat. Over the past three weeks, several of Mulayam’s close aides have shunned SP and joined BJP, including Bukkal Nawab, Yashwant Singh and SarojiniAgarwal.
While Nawab and Singh had resigned on July 29, Agarwal had tendered her resignation on August 4.
A senior Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member and former UP minister Jaiveer Singh had also resigned on July 29 and later latched on to the BJP.
According to sources, there are more SP legislators who are biding their time to jump over to the BJP camp. This process gained momentum after the recent three-day visit of BJP chief Amit Shah in Lucknow.
Under Akhilesh, SP has desperately trying to keep its flock together over the last one year after a bitter power feud broke out in the outfit.
The desertions gathered esteem after Akhilesh displaced his father Mulayam as the party president on January 1, 2017. Later, the crushing defeat in the UP poll further fuelled the intraparty bickering, giving rise to more resignations, sackings and bitterness.
All the four SP MLCs have attributed their resignations to the lack of leadership in SP and disrespect to Mulayam for giving up their upper house seat.
Nonetheless, the spate of resignations have provided a big relief to BJP as UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, his two deputies viz. Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, and two senior ministers SwatantraDev Singh and MohsinRaza are yet not member of any of the two houses of the state legislature.
While, Yogi and Maurya are parliamentarians from Gorakhpur and Phoolpur (Allahabad) constituencies respectively, the other three are not members of any federal or provincial houses.
According to rule, a member of the state council of ministers is required to get elected to either of the houses within six months of assuming office.
Since, the Yogi council of ministers had taken oath of office on March 19, they have time till September 18 to get elected to either Vidhan Sabha through direct polls or indirectly to the Vidhan Parishad.
By fielding its top leaders, who are already officiating as ministers, including Yogi, in the Vidhan Sabha poll, the BJP does not want to give the opposition any chance to forge a unified front against BJP. Therefore, the party is seeking the backdoor entry for Yogi and four of his ministers to the state legislature.
Another BSP MLC Ambika Chaudhay had also resigned from the upper house. Chaudhary, who was earlier with SP and was close to Mulayam, had quit before the UP poll and joined BSP. After resigning, he said he would remain with BSP though.