Can the BJP snatch a ninth seat or will the newfound bonhomie between former arch-rivals SP and BSP prevail is the question hanging in the air a day ahead of the crucial polls for 10 Uttar Pradesh Rajya Sabha seats.
The saffron party is assured of victory in eight of the ten seats going by its dominant numbers in the state Assembly along with its allies.
The four-MLA strong Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), after being placated by BJP chief Amit Shah, and the Apna Dal (Sonelal) with nine MLAs have decided to vote for BJP nominees.
"We are standing with the BJP. We had held a meeting of our MLAs and it was decided that we will strongly support the BJP," national president of Apna Dal (S) Ashish Patel told PTI today.
The declaration of support from the Apna Dal (S) comes days after SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, a Cabinet minister in UP government, declared his party's support for the BJP candidates. There are in all 11 candidates, including Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in the fray for the 10 seats for which polling will take place tomorrow.
According to the Election Commission, voting will be held from 9 am to 4 pm. Counting of votes will be taken up at 5 pm tomorrow itself. The BJP and its allies have 324 MLAs in the 403-member Assembly after the death of its Noorpur MLA in a road accident recently. To secure a win in this Rajya Sabha election, a candidate needs 37 first preference votes.
Arithmetically, the BJP can easily win eight of the 10 seats and will be left with 28 surplus votes. "There will be contest on the ninth seat," a senior UP BJP leader said, exuding confidence that the saffron party would bag nine seats.
The SP and the BSP also appeared sure of win one seat each. The SP has fielded Jaya Bachchan and the BSP Bhimrao Ambedkar. With 19 MLAs, the BSP is short of 18 first preference votes and with Naresh Agarwal's son Nitin, who is still an SP MLA, likely to cross-vote for the BJP, the task will become difficult for the candidate of the Mayawati-led party.
BSP insiders said to be doubly sure of victory, Mayawati has sought a list of SP's loyal MLAs who will vote for her party candidate. She is also banking on some independent MLAs, who, though, are yet to reveal their cards, they said. Riding on the new bonhomie with the SP, Mayawati is banking on the 10 surplus votes of Akhilesh Yadav's party, besides seven votes of the Congress and one of RLD to reach the magic figure of 37 votes.
However, Nitin Agarwal can queer the BSPs pitch if he votes for the BJP. Naresh Agarwal, who recently quit the SP and joined the BJP, has said his son would vote for the saffron party in the Rajya Sabha polls.
The country's most populous state sends 31 MPs to the 245-member Rajya Sabha, and the BJP, which won a massive victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, is yet to get a lion's share of these.
Presently, the BJP has 58 Rajya Sabha MPs. The BJP candidates in the fray from UP are Union Finance Minister Jaitley, Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav, GVL Narasimha Rao and Anil Kumar Agarwal. PTI