The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP cracks disqualification whip on rebel legislators

Lucknow/New Delhi, Nov. 11: As the storm over Suresh Nanda’s candidature for the Rajya Sabha elections blew over following rejection of his nomination papers, the BJP leadership this evening struck out at party rebels by moving the Speaker for disqualification of 10 of its legislators.

“We have submitted a petition to the Speaker requesting that 10 BJP MLAs who had sponsored Nanda’s candidature against the party’s official nominees should be disqualified from the membership of the Assembly under the anti-defection law,” BJP legislature party leader Lalji Tandon said.

The move only hardened the attitude of the rebels. “By its precipitate action, the leadership has now closed all doors for talks,” Ramashees Rai, spokesman for the BJP Bachao Samiti, told reporters after Tandon submitted his petition to the Speaker’s office.

Nanda’s ouster from the Rajya Sabha race enabled BJP candidates Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to be elected along with eight other party nominees and industrialist Lalit Suri.

Announcing the rejection of Nanda’s papers, the Election Commission said it had found that the candidate had “fraudulently” got his name entered in the electoral rolls in Ghaziabad.

In Delhi, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu declared that he had authorised the Uttar Pradesh unit to take “appropriate” action against the MLAs who had signed Nanda’s papers.

The decision to act tough was taken last night at a meeting Naidu had with the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister. BJP sources said Atal Bihari Vajpayee made it clear that it was time to “stem the rot”.

There was no indication, however, that disciplinary action would defuse the crisis in the revolt-racked BJP. “Some of us were willing to go to Delhi for talks but today’s development has forced us to change our mind,” Rai said.

Asked to comment on one dissident MLA, Shiva Kant Ojha’s claim that a group of dissidents would leave for Delhi today, Rai said: “He may be having his own personal reasons but at least 15 legislators do not want to go to Delhi under the changed circumstances”.

Although for the record, Naidu told the media that reports from Lucknow indicated there was no threat to the BJP-BSP government if all 10 MLAs were disqualified, party sources admitted that such a move would make their position more precarious than before.

For one, the BJP’s strength would come down from 88 to 78 and, therefore, its clout vis-a-vis the BSP would shrink further. For another, the government would hang by a majority of one or two.

In this scenario, the importance of smaller parties like Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Janata Dal (United) and Loktantrik Congress Party and Independents would grow disproportionately in relation to their numbers.

The immediate task, however, is to keep the government “afloat” till the Gujarat elections so that party supporters were not demoralised.

While the BJP was unsuccessfully trying to put its house in order, the Samajwadi Party today took its battle against the Mayavati government to the streets by observing a protest day throughout the state.

Led by general secretary Amar Singh, 22 MLAs, two MLCs and four MPs courted arrest. Amar Singh, who flew into Lucknow in the morning to participate in an attempted gherao of the Raj Bhavan, claimed he was manhandled by some persons at the behest of police near the airport.

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