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BJP to crack whip on rebels

New Delhi, Nov. 23: The BJP brass took time off from Gujarat to discuss the Uttar Pradesh political scenario this evening at a meeting at Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence.

The meeting, which lasted two hours, decided there should be no let-up in the action initiated by state party leaders against the 10 rebel legislators who had defied the party’s whip in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections held recently and put up a candidate of their own against the BJP-BSP’s official nominee, Lalit Suri.

A disqualification petition against the rebels, who include senior party member Ganga Bhakt Singh, awaits the consideration of Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi. Today’s decision is a signal to Tripathi that he could expedite the disqualification of the MLAs.

For a while, it was thought that the leadership was prepared to soften its stance and allow the “errant” members to climb down and perhaps offer an apology, following which they would be given a second chance.

But with the rebels having allegedly egged on some MLAs to vote against the BJP-BSP’s nominee in the council election held last week, state party sources said the leaders felt it was time to crack the whip and demonstrate “we mean business”. Despite the cross-voting, the BJP-BSP candidate won the seat.

The meeting also concluded there was no threat to the government, despite the council election proving it was perilously close to being reduced to a minority. Sources, however, refuted this reality. “Mulayam claimed he would get the magic figure of 204 needed to dislodge our government. He boasted he would form a government without the Congress’ support,” a senior BJP leader said.

“The council election has demolished his claims. To this date, he has not gone to the Governor with a list of his supporters,” the BJP leader added.

Today’s meeting was attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, the general secretary Rajnath Singh and other leaders such as Vinay Katiyar, Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra.

The BJP brass’ main worry was if the rebellion continued unchecked, Uttar Pradesh would cast its shadow on the Gujarat elections and undermine the morale of the cadre. The loss of the BJP-BSP government was the last thing the leaders were prepared for.

However, with the Congress deciding to abstain from voting in the council election — which basically facilitated the BJP-BSP’s win — BJP sources said they were “reasonably sure” Yadav would not go far if he took another shot at destabilising the government.

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