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Missing MLAs worry Mayavati

Lucknow, Nov. 17: Only 54 of the BJP’s 88 MLAs turned up at a meeting of its legislature party at the residence of Uttar Pradesh urban development minister Lalji Tandon today, signalling that dissidence was increasing despite the leadership cracking the whip.

This is cause for worry for chief minister Mayavati, but may not pose an immediate threat to her government. The leaders of the BJP-BSP combine insist that tomorrow’s election for the lone Legislative Council seat cannot be treated as a trial of strength between the Mayavati-led coalition and the combined Opposition.

But should today’s rebellious mood be reflected in the results of the crucial elections — in which members of the Legislative Assembly make up the electoral college — a defeat of the ruling combine’s Munna Singh Chauhan is bound to spur the campaign to dislodge the Mayavati government.

Today’s meeting of the BJP legislature party had acquired a special significance in the context of the orchestrated campaign by BJP dissidents against Tandon, their leader in the legislature.

The BJP dissidents have all along said Tandon’s highhandedness was one of the main reasons for their mounting resentment.

While the BJP leaders had counted out 10 party MLAs for whose disqualification they have moved Uttar Pradesh Speaker Kesari Nath Tripathi, the absence of 33 MLAs from the meeting convened at Tandon’s residence indicated that the ranks of the rebels were swelling.

This is an unmistakable danger signal for the Mayavati government, which survives on a wafer thin majority of one vote. Should all the absentees vote against the ruling combine’s candidates, he is bound to lose, political observers feel.

“Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri will be put under tremendous pressure to convene a special session of the Assembly and ask Mayavati to prove her majority — a demand made by the BJP rebels and backed by the entire Opposition, including the Congress,” they say.

Tandon, however, tried to play it down when newsmen asked him about the cause of such large-scale abstention. “We have heard complaints of our party legislators and will try to sort it out collectively after the elections tomorrow,” was all he could say.

Significantly, the absentees at the BJP legislators’ meeting included not only known and suspected dissidents but also party heavyweights like irrigation minister Om Prakash Singh. “I kept off the meeting to protest against the distorted frame of mind of the lobby, which is trying to bring in individualised supremacy (read Tandon) within a cadre based party,” said Singh, a hardcore RSS man.

Singh — who has held key posts in the party hierarchy, including that of state unit chief — is unhappy that he was not consulted when Mayavati expanded her Cabinet and reallocated portfolios in consultation with Tandon and his coterie.

“I am not after any post but at least I am senior enough in the party to be told about any decision concerning me. I was not even consulted by anyone before the decision to trim the number of ministries headed by me was taken,” alleged Singh.

“It’s time for remedial action before the workers and the people lose faith in the party.”

The BJP dissidents have decided not to vote in favour of the nominee of the ruling coalition. “The result on Monday will conclusively prove who enjoys the majority support,” said Kovid Kumar Singh, a rebel MLA.

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