India Politics
New-face BSP racing ahead in fractured Uttar Pradesh
May 11, 2007 - 9:27:04 AM

Lucknow, May 11 - The Bahujan Samaj Party - of three times chief minister Mayawati was inching towards becoming the single largest outfit in the Uttar Pradesh assembly Friday as counting of the millions of votes got underway in the country's most populous and politically crucial state.

Election officials said the BSP was leading in 155 of the 355 seats where counting trends were available and could end up with up to 180 seats in a badly hung 403-member house, dethroning a bruised Samajwadi Party.

If that happens, it would be the first time the BSP, one of India's youngest political parties, would become the dominant grouping in the legislature to most possibly take office in Uttar Pradesh for a fourth time.

The Samajwadi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party - were leading in 89 and 62 seats respectively, but unlike the BSP were losing in known strongholds. The BSP on the contrary was making gains all over the sprawling state.

The Congress, which had expected to dramatically improve upon its 2002 performance, was at a distant fourth and could finish with around just 23 seats - around the same tally as five years ago.

Congress sources admitted this was a disappointment since party president Sonia Gandhi and her MP son Rahul Gandhi had campaigned extensively in a determined to revive the party's dipping fortunes in a state where it once held sway.

Smaller parties and independents were ahead of others in 28 seats.

Amid some speculation that the Samajwadi Party and BJP could somehow gang up to keep BSP at bay, the BJP indicated that it would prefer to sit in the opposition benches.

'We will prefer to sit in the opposition,' a BJP spokesman said in New Delhi. 'We are neither supporting anyone nor taking anyone's support.'

Several Samajwadi Party veterans were losing. This included Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who was trailing at Bharthana, one of the two constituencies he contested, but leading in Gunnaur.

Don-turned-politician Raja Bhaiyya, backed by the Samajwadi Party, was also trailing in Kunda. So was Louise Khursheed, the wife of state Congress chief who contested from Kamiganj.

Another big loser was Sonelal Patel, chief of Apna Dal and a BJP ally, who seemed set to lose in Kholasla.

Balloting in the state took place from April 7 until May 8. Some 50 million voted.

Mayawati, 51, has vowed to send Mualayam Singh Yadav, his Man Friday Amar Singh and Raja Bhaiyya to jail on charges of corruption if she forms a government.

The Uttar Pradesh elections were the first the BSP fought after actively wooing the Hindu upper castes it once despised.

The makeover, party leaders explained, was aimed at building a long-term political umbrella like that of the Congress that would include everyone from the upper castes to minorities to Dalits - the cushion the Congress had for decades until it began cracking up in the late 1980s.

Today, the Congress has become an also ran in Uttar Pradesh, rapidly conceding space to BSP, BJP and Samajwadi Party.

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