Akhilesh Yadav Gets A Dinner Surprise Amid Cross-Voting Buzz In Key Polls

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Akhilesh Yadav Gets A Dinner Surprise Amid Cross-Voting Buzz In Key Polls

Akhilesh Yadav's party has fielded three candidates for the Rajya Sabha election

Lucknow:

In a major setback to Samajwadi Party ahead of the voting for 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, its chief whip in the Assembly has resigned. The resignation of Manoj Kumar Pandey, MLA from Unchahar, came hours after as many as 8 MLAs skipped a dinner hosted by party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

The developments are playing out against the backdrop of a buzz over cross-voting in the election to the Upper House. Besides hitting the SP's prospects in this key election, the infighting may compound the party's problems months ahead of the general election.

Earlier, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had alleged that the BJP is putting pressure on the party's MLAs. "This is how they work. They instil fear, threaten people, use agencies or take up any old case and pressure them. All these will not work in this election," he said yesterday.

This morning, however, he was less confident. "We hope all three candidates of Samajwadi Party win. BJP can use all the tactics to win elections. BJP will do everything possible for victory. Some of our leaders who want personal gains can go to the BJP," he said.

A total of 56 Rajya Sabha seats became vacant this year. Forty-one candidates were elected unopposed. Of the remaining, 10 are in Uttar Pradesh, four in Karnataka and one in Himachal Pradesh.

For the 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 11 candidates are in the race -- 8 from the ruling BJP and 3 from main Opposition Samajwadi Party.

The BJP is confident of the victory of all its candidates, especially after it recently secured the support of the Jayant Chaudhary-led Rastriya Lok Dal. "We have the support of Nishad Party, Suhel Dev Samaj Party, Apna Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Jansatta Dal. I am confident all 8 NDA candidates will win," state BJP president Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary has said.

Earlier, leaders of the BJP had claimed that a section of SP legislators were in touch with them. The Akhilesh Yadav-led party had denied this, but the absence of eight MLAs at last night's dinner has left the main Opposition worried.

Speaking to news agency ANI, SP legislator Zahid Baig said, "Many people did not come. Maybe they are busy. But if they have taken money (to cross-vote), people will not forgive them."

The BJP's eight candidates are former Union Minister RPN Singh, former MP Chaudhary Tejveer Singh, general secretary of BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit Amarpal Maurya, former state minister Sangeeta Balwant (Bind), party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi, former MLA Sadhna Singh, former Agra mayor Naveen Jain and Sanjay Seth. The SP has fielded actor MP Jaya Bachchan, retired IAS officer Alok Ranjan and Ramji Lal Suman. The BJP has adequate numbers to get seven candidates elected, but its move to field an eighth has forced a contest. And it may succeed if cross-voting happens.

What's Happening in Karnataka, Himachal

Five candidates are in the contest for four Rajya Sabha seats in Karnataka. The ruling Congress is confident of winning three seats, and the BJP-JDS combine has the numbers to win at least one. But the Opposition alliance's naming of a second candidate has made it an exciting contest. Taking no changes, the ruling Congress has shifted its MLAs to a private hotel. State party chief and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar has denied any possibility of cross-voting.

In Himachal, only one seat is going to polls. The Congress has a comfortable strength in the Assembly, but the BJP has forced a contest by fielding a candidate.