Lucknow: Naresh Agarwal’s entry into the BJP has imparted an interesting twist to the Rajya Sabha battle in Uttar Pradesh after the former Samajwadi Party heavyweight declared his MLA son will vote for the saffron party, a move that may upset the BSP candidate’s applecart.

The BSP, with 19 MLAs in the 403-member Assembly, is already short of 18 first preference votes and with Agarwal’s son Nitin likely to vote for the BJP, the task will be all the more difficult for Mayawati’s candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar.

In order to ensure a straight win in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, a candidate has to get 37 first preference votes.

The BJP-led NDA has 324 MLAs, enough to clinch eight seats. The BJP, which has fielded 11 candidates for the state’s 10 RS seats, will still be left with 18 surplus votes. Its Noorpur MLA died in a road accident recently.

“The character of the BJP has been to indulge in horse-trading, and in order to flaunt the clout of the BJP government in the ongoing Rajya Sabha elections, the ruling party has put up additional candidates to widen the gulf between the SP and BSP,” SP MLC and spokesperson Sunil Singh Sajan told PTI.

The SP and the BSP have reached an electoral understanding to back the candidate who is most capable of defeating the BJP.

“The BJP will indulge in horse-trading of MLAs to queer the pitch for the lone BSP candidate,” Sajan said.

UP BJP vice-president JPS Rathore said that the party was giving finishing touches to its strategy for the elections and the picture will be clear on 15 March, the last day for withdrawal of candidature.

Three additional candidates of the BJP and an independent jumped into the fray at the last moment, leaving 14 aspirants for 10 seats. The Samajwadi Party and BSP have fielded Jaya Bachchan and Bhimrao Ambedkar respectively.

The BJP candidates in the electoral arena are Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav, GVL Narasimha Rao, Anil Kumar Agarwal, Salil Bishnoi and Vidyasagar Sonkar. Independent candidate Mahesh Chandra Sharma is also trying his luck.

The country’s most populous state sends 31 members to the 245-member Rajya Sabha, and the BJP, which won a massive victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, is yet to get a lion’s share of these. With 83 members in the Upper House, the NDA is well short of a majority. The BJP has 58 Rajya Sabha MPs.

During the 2012 biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha, the then ruling SP had bagged six seats.

Like in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP hopes to gain from dissension in rival parties, it has fielded extra candidates in Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Maharashtra, where it can win three seats, it has put up four candidates, and in Gujarat, where the party can easily bag two, it has fielded three nominees.

PTI