The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati’s lead shrinks

Lucknow, Oct. 25: A group of Independent MLAs walked out on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati late tonight and decided to support the rival Samajwadi Party in a numbing blow to efforts to save her coalition with the BJP.

Thirteen Independents have been backing Mayavati whose ruling combine has a strength of 222.

“A dozen of us, who had backed Mayavati during the last trial of strength, have sought time with Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri to inform him that we are not supporting the coalition any more,” Sanjay Singh, the spokesman for the Independent group, said.

A group of eight MLAs later met the Governor and requested him to convene the Assembly and ask Mayavati to prove her majority.

Withdrawal by the group does not pose an immediate threat to the government because even if a dozen pulls out, Mayavati’s camp will be reduced to 210, still above the majority mark of 203.

The display of hostility followed raids earlier in the day on the residences of an Independent MLA.

Samajwadi Party leader Shiv Pal Singh claimed it was “the beginning of the end of Mayavati and there will be more desertions”. Rebellion is brewing in the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the BJP, both partners in the coalition. Dissidents in the BJP have decided to continue their fight within the party for the time being, but were not letting up pressure to withdraw from the government.

BJP state chief Vinay Katiyar, who announced the suspension of rebel leader Ramashees Rai late tonight, tried to downplay the rebellion. “We are confident of winning back some of the Independents and we have been assured that there would be no split in the BJP despite differences,” he said.

The suspension of Rai, an MLC, who is the spokesman for the party’s rebel group, did not seem to have deterred the dissidents. Though they have not announced their course of action, the dissidents are insisting that the party should pull its ministers out of the government and support Mayavati from outside.

“Our stand is unchanged. In fact, this uncalled for action has further steeled our resolve and our number is rising,” said Ganga Bhakt Singh, convener of the BJP Bachao Samiti.

Standing by Rai, who was selected as a soft target because he is not an MLA and does not count if the 88-member BJP legislature is threatened with a split, Ganga Bhakt Singh undermined senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra’s confidence that the crisis would be defused soon.

Raids on the Lucknow and Jaunpur residences of Independent MLA Dhananjay Singh proved counter-productive. Infuriated by what they described as an act of political vendetta, the Independents decided to precipitate a crisis.

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