Nine MLAs expelled by the Bahujan Samaj Party over the last four years met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, NDTV reported.

The MLAs, who were expelled by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, include Aslam Raini, Aslam Ali Chowdhari, Muztaba Siddiqui, Hakim Lal Bind, Hargobind Bhargav, Sushma Patel, Vandana Singh, Ramvir Upadhyay and Anil Singh. Currently, there are 18 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

Yadav acknowledged that the meeting took place but did not elaborate on what transpired and how many MLAs were present. “They [BSP rebels] will join Samajwadi Party soon,” he told Aaj Tak.

Patel, an MLA from Mungra Badshahpur Assembly constituency in Jaunpur district, told PTI that she has decided to switch sides and join the Samajwadi Party. “The meeting with Yadav, which lasted for 15-20 minutes, witnessed discussions on the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and it was a nice meeting,” she said.

Meanwhile, Raini said the rebel MLAs were against Bahujan Samaj Party General Secretary Satish Chandra Mishra. “He [Mishra] is the one who misbehaved with our senior leaders Ram Achal Rajbhar and Lalji Verma,” Raini said.

On June 3, both Rajbhar and Verma were suspended for “anti-party activities”. Rajbhar was a former state party chief and a minister in previous Mayawati-led government. Verma was the legislature party leader in Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

While these two did not meet Yadav on Tuesday, Raini told ANI that the rebel MLAs considered Verma as their leader. “The tally for expelled Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs is 11 right now,” he added. “If we get one more MLA, will form our own party.”

The expelled MLAs have not been disqualified yet, according to NDTV.

Samajwadi Party MLA Irfan Solanki criticised the “oppressive nature” of Mayawati and the Bharatiya Janata Party. “BSP and BJP MLAs are scared of expressing themselves, that is why they are coming to the SP,” he claimed.

Mayawati lost power in 2012 and Yadav took over as the chief minister. He was replaced by BJP leader Adityanath in 2017.