The Rajya Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh took an interesting turn on Tuesday with an Independent candidate Preeti Mahapatra, backed by several BJP MLAs and some others, filed her nomination papers, making it 12 candidates for 11 seats from the state.
With 11 candidates — seven of the Samajwadi Party (SP), two of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and one each from the BJP and Congress — for 11 seats, there would have been no contest. But Mahapatra's unexpected entry into the fray has now ensured that the seats would be fought for.
Preeti Mahapatra, 37, a Hinduja College commerce graduate who hails from Gujarat, runs an NGO, Krishnaleela Foundation, engaged in social welfare projects and is settled in Mumbai with her husband, Harihara Mahapatra, runs construction and investment firms in Gujarat, Odisha and Maharashtra, reports The Indian Express.
According to the report, Mahapatra denied any connection with the BJP. "I want a Rajya Sabha membership from UP because this state is backward in development and needs a lot of work done. The Prime Minister too is an MP from here… I too will work for cleanliness and development," she said claiming that the BJP MLAs were only supporting her because they were impressed with her vision for development.
Interestingly, Mahapatra's Facebook page proves otherwise. Apart from boasting of an album which goes on to show how closely she works with the party, Mahapatra's cover image is a photo of herself and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mahapatra describes herself as a member of the Narendra Modi Vichar Manch and calls the prime minister her 'mentor'.
Furthering that point, a report in The Hindu quoted a source close to Mahapatra and claimed that she was hoping to qualify as the BJP’s official nominee. "But with the announcement of the BJP’s official candidate that was dashed," the source was quoted saying. Flanked by influential state politicians such as BJP's Suresh Khanna and Radha Mohan Das, and former BSP coordinator Jugal Kishore, she comes off as a significant political contestant, reports Hindustan Times.
BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak, however, denied that the party had offered support to Mahapatra and said he did not know the couple. The contradicting claims are intriguing as they only reaffirm the BJP's attempt to gain more seats in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in minority, and to counter Congress bringing Kapil Sibal to the Rajya Sabha.
In 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly ruling SP has 229 MLAs, BSP 80, BJP 41, Congress 29, besides some smaller parties and Independents. Each candidate would require 37 votes for victory.
A similar situation arose for the UP Legislative Council, where 14 aspirants have filed their nomination papers for 13 seats.
With inputs from PTI