The spectre of horse-trading today loomed large over the biennial elections for 11 Rajya Sabha and 13 Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council seats as the two extra candidates remained in the fray with tomorrow being the deadline for withdrawal of nomination.
Returning Officer and Principal Secretary (Assembly) Pradeep Kumar Dubey said none of the 12 candidates for Rajya Sabha and 14 candidates for the Legislative Council withdrew their papers today.
The contest for Rajya Sabha became interesting after Independent candidate Preeti Mahapatra, a social worker, filed her papers at the last moment as the 12th candidate for the 11 seats going to polls next week, thereby forcing voting.
Several BJP MLAs and members of smaller parties besides some Independents proposed the name of 37-year-old Preeti, who heads the woman wing of Narendra Modi Vichar Manch and flaunts her picture with the prime minister on social media.
The fact that 16 BJP lawmakers have signed Preeti’s two sets of nominations has made Congress accuse her of being a BJP candidate who could encourage horse-trading.
She, however, maintained that it should not be dubbed as cross-voting and rather as “aatma ki awaaz” (conscience vote). “I guess cross-voting is not barred here. Lawmakers can freely take a call on which candidate they wish to support,” said Preeti, who heads NGO Krishnaleela Foundation in Gujarat.
BJP leaders claimed that some MLAs from SP, BSP and Congress were in touch with them as they were keen on contesting the 2017 UP Assembly elections on ‘lotus’ symbol.
Preeti’s entry might queer the pitch of Congress aspirant and noted lawyer Kapil Sibal, who needs five extra votes for victory. Congress has 29 MLAs and each candidate needs 34 votes for Rajya Sabha win.
Had Preeti not entered the fray, Sibal’s entry to Rajya Sabha would have been certain as there would have been 11 candidates for as many seats.
Preeti, who claims 11 votes in her favour, needs 23 more votes for victory.
Sibal is expecting help from BSP that had recently backed Congress in the Uttarakhand Assembly floor test to defeat “communal forces”.
But, Sibal is keeping his fingers crossed as Mayawati is yet to clarify which way her 12 surplus lawmakers will go as after getting both its nominees elected, BSP will still have 12 votes to spare.