LUCKNOW: Ahead of the March 23 Rajya Sabha biennial elections, where 10 new members to the Upper House of Parliament will be elected, political parties in Uttar Pradesh are leaving nothing to chance, holding frenzied meetings to firm up strategies, cajoling allies and hosting lavish dinners to drum up support.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), based on its strength in the assembly, can easily get eight candidates elected unopposed but has plumped for an election by fielding a ninth nominee. It would have otherwise been smooth sailing for its eight -- and one candidate each from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).
What has, however, added to the drama is that the BJP, which till last week considered itself invincible in electoral battles direct or indirect, now has reasons to be worried after identifying "overconfidence and callousness" for its defeat in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur parliamentary by-polls. The seats had been held by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Party sources told IANS that the Chief Minister himself was working the wires with allies and even with party's 312 lawmakers, many of whom are apparently miffed at being overlooked by the leadership in the past one year's rule.
Even the BJP's central leadership has swung into action to deal with any problem. As Om Prakash Rajbhar, president of the Suhaildev Bahujan Samaj Party (SBSP) -- an ally with four legislators -- red-flagged the performance of the Adityanath government and threatened to remain neutral in the Rajya Sabha polls, BJP chief Amit Shah immediately called him for a meeting in New Delhi.
Subsequently, Rajbhar, who has even accused the BJP government of being "neck deep in graft, more than the previous SP government", now says he will vote for the BJP candidates.
Bitterness, however, persists at what close aides say was the "arrogance and indifference" of the Chief Minister. However, Adityanath has on Wednesday evening called a meeting of party MLAs and is understood to be working in tandem with the state unit, aided by Organisation Secretary Sunil Bansal.
"Though we are certain of all our nine candidates cruising to the finishing line, after the Gorakhpur-Phulpur fiasco we certainly are in no mood or position to take risks," says a senior party functionary who did not want to be identified.
The BJP has 28 extra votes for its ninth candidate and needs nine more votes. For this, it is eyeing the independents and some disgruntled elements in the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the Congress to switch loyalties and cross vote.
Independent MLAs like Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiyya, Vinod Saroj, Aman Mani Tripathi and Vijay Mishra sided with the BJP in the presidential election and could be "easy catch" yet again, feel BJP leaders. Nitin Agarwal, a minister in the previous Akhilesh Yadav government and present SP legislator from Hardoi, will most likely vote for the BJP after his father Naresh Agarwal joined the party.
The Congress, which has seven legislators, has announced its support for the candidature of BSP nominee Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
The BJP has fielded Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao and Anil Kumar Agarwal.
The SP has 47 legislators and is confident of getting its candidate Jaya Bachchan through for a fourth straight term. It has 10 extra votes which when added to the 19 of the BSP, seven of the Congress and one of Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) will bring the BSP candidate close to victory.
The BJP, however, plans to upset this calculation, but flush with the resounding victory in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-polls, the SP is also on overdrive.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has planned a dinner at a five star property here for his legislators and other party leaders. Also on the list significantly are Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Singh Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav -- all prominent faces of the Yadav clan and the party who were on divergent sides during the bitter feud for power two years back.
The BSP and Congress leaders are optimistic that the BJP is on the backfoot, while the BJP seems equally confident of its chances. Only the results which show whose strategy prevailed.