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Fistfight puts paid to rebel gameplan

Lucknow, Nov. 9: The attempt by BJP rebels to force a contest for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh was aborted today when their nominee, Delhi-based arms dealer Suresh Nanda, cried off.

Nanda’s pullout paves the way for the automatic election of industrialist Lalit Suri, against whom he would have been pitted in a bypoll, and 10 others.

Nanda’s nomination as an Independent candidate was challenged by the Congress yesterday, when he entered the fray. He was assaulted by BJP supporters today and a criminal case filed against him for fraudulently registering as a voter in Ghaziabad.

The Election Commission had directed the returning officer not to pass any order on Nanda’s eligibility till it gave the green signal.

Suri was late tonight declared elected without contest to the seat for which a bypoll was necessitated by the resignation of Karnataka Governor T.N. Chaturvedi. Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Amar Singh, Akhilesh Das and six others will also go to the Rajya Sabha unopposed since only 10 candidates are in the fray for the 10 seats.

Nanda had an altercation with Naqvi when he came for the scrutiny of his papers today, after which he was attacked by BJP MLAs. Naqvi was reported to be the first to slap him, an allegation the BJP leader has denied.

Policemen on the spot whisked Nanda away to “safety” instead of detaining the assailants. After cooling his heels in protective custody, the arms dealer was taken to meet chief minister Mayavati. At the meeting, Nanda is believed to have agreed to pull out of the fray provided his papers were not rejected. “I have had enough of it and have withdrawn from the contest,” a harried Nanda said after his return.

At 4 pm, Nanda was brought back to the returning officer, where he said: “I feel my withdrawing from the scene will restore peace here and things may get worse if I remain in the fray.”

Cutting across party lines, all major players were against him. “Nanda could have engineered cross-voting not only in the BJP but the Congress and BSP also,” a BJP leader said. Mayavati plunged into action when she heard a BSP minister had met Nanda and promised him the support of party MLAs for a consideration, he said.

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