New Delhi : On the eve of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls, official candidates of mainstream parties remained on the edge on Friday for fear over possible cross-voting and support of independents who hold the key in some places. Today elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats in 15 states and with a contest in at least six states, political parties are scrambling to keep their flocks together. The numbers in the Rajya Sabha have forced the Modi government to go slow on its reform agenda, despite a brute majority in Lok Sabha.
While BJP pulled all stops to manage the numbers for Independents it has covertly supported, a sense of unease prevails among other parties which have kept their legislators in good humour. However, BJP itself is feeling the heat in Rajasthan, where its 160 MLAs have been kept huddled in a hotel for the past three days. Samajwadi Party and BSP in Uttar Pradesh, too, have been heaving lavish hospitality on their MLAs, including sumptuous meals. With seven candidates in the fray, the ruling SP has been the most hospitable to its legislators. For the last three days, the MLAs had party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for company over dinner.
BSP chief Mayawati has been equally generous, interacting with media as well as party legislators. BSP has held three meetings with party MLAs in the past one week while Mayawati addressed the media twice. Although, BSP has supported Congress nominees in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, the party is still silent about its 12 votes which could be crucial for Congress nominee Kapil Sibal, who is short of the required 34 votes. "Who we support will be clear after the results come out," Mayawati told reporters in Lucknow on Thursday. There are 12 candidates against 11 vacancies in UP, where BJP-supported independent, Preeti Mahapatra, has created a flutter. Sibal, despite being short of the required numbers, is likely to romp home with possible support of BSP and RLD.
The SP has fielded seven candidates but its seventh candidate is short of nine first-preference votes. BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the RS polls have exposed parties opposed to the NDA. "BSP is supporting Congress candidates but the two parties claim to be rivals. They should clear this ambiguity," he said.
Congress has declared support for independent candidate Kamal Morarka in Rajasthan where BJP has kept 160 MLAs in a hotel at Ajmer Road on the outskirts of Jaipur. Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot claimed that jammers had been installed around the hotel, where CM Vasundhara Raje and some of her ministerial colleagues are camping with the legislators.
"Government functioning has come to standstill as most of the ministers have been asked to take care of MLAs," said Pilot. He said his party's 24 MLAs would support Morarka so that there is no walkover to the BJP candidates. Congress has formally decided to support INLD candidate, Supreme Court lawyer, RK Anand in Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana. "To defeat BJP supported candidate, it will be pertinent for us to support Anand," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari on Friday. He said that Anand had met the Congress leadership and had expressed faith in Congress ideology. With Congress support, while RK Anand is set to re-enter the upper house against BJP supported independent Subhash Chandra. BJP's senior leader Vinod Gotiya, contesting as independent in Madhya Pradesh, has a fight on hand with Congress nominee and senior lawyer Vivek Tankha for the third vacancy.