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Decoding the exodus into the BJP in Uttar Pradesh

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The defection on Saturday 29 July by three UP legislators - two of the Samajwadi Party and one of the Bahujan Samaj Party - to the Bharatiya Janata Party a little before the BJP national president Amit Shah landed in Lucknow came as a big blow to the nascent efforts towards opposition unity in a state that already has a brute majority of the BJP in the State Legislative Assembly.

BJP National President Amit Shah addresses the party's Intellectuals Meet in Lucknow

The three legislators are members of the Legislative Assembly for which direct elections are not held, and it underlines the significance attached by the BJP to holding by-elections to facilitate five ministers (including the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath) become members of the State Legislature. If the day's developments are to be believed, the three vacancies in the Legislative Council would mean that at least three ministers won't have to contest by-elections. Besides the CM, his two deputies Keshav Prasad Maurya, Dinesh Sharma, Ministers of State Swatantra Dev Singh and Mohsin Raza are not members of any House of the UP Legislature.

Interestingly, while Yogi and Maurya are members of Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur and Phulpur, respectively, Dinesh Sharma, Swatantra Dev Singh and Raza are not members of any House.

Bukkal Nawab and Yashwant Singh, members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) of the Samajwadi party, and Jaiveer Singh, an MLC of the BSP, quit their seats and their parties in the morning, citing similar reasons. While Bukkal Nawab, a Shia leader belonging to the Old City area of Lucknow, said he was feeling "suffocated" in the SP, Jaiveer Singh said the BSP had strayed from its path and had become directionless. There were also reports that another SP MLC Madhukar Jaitley had also quit but he later denied it.

Nawab is considered close to the SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav but had remained in the party even after former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav took over reigns of the party.

Nawab termed the SP not as a party but an "akhada" (wrestling arena.) Yashwant Singh, on the other hand, is a close associate of the independent legislator from Kunda, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya who was a minister in the Akhilesh Government. Jaiveer Singh is one of the seniormost leaders in the BSP, having continued there for a long time. All the three MLCs submitted their resignation to Chairman of the Legislative Council Ramesh Yadav.

Predictably, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati blamed the BJP for indulging in "political corruption". Akhilesh said that the party was shying away from facing the people in by-elections and had therefore opted for the short-cut. Mayawati said that the BJP's hunger for power had turned into "lust" and that the recent developments had put "democracy at risk."

During the last Asembly election campaign, Bukkal Nawab had caused a stir by saying that he would be happy to see a Ram temple come up in Ayodhya, and would help the cause by "carrying the first brick to Ayodhya" and also contribute financially towards temple construction. Incidentally, he is also involved in a case of alleged land grab in Old Lucknow. It remains to be seen what happens to these cases since he is now with the ruling dispensation.

Amit Shah is on a three-day visit to Lucknow and he plunged into a series of meetings right after his arrival. He is scheduled to meet all BJP ministers, legislators and office bearers. The working of the Yogi government and some issues in the party organisation are also expected to be discussed and sorted out during his stay here. On Sunday, he is scheduled to meet a section of the people at an "intellectuals' conclave."

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