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Mayavati splits Cong ahead of trial

Lucknow, Jan. 28: A day after taking on ally BJP on the anti-terror law, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati today effected a split in the 23-member Congress Legislature Party when seven legislators joined hands with expelled MLA Akhilesh Singh to float a new outfit.

The splinter group was immediately recognised by Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi, who treated the expelled MLA as “still belonging to the Congress” and held that the minimum one-third requirement for a valid split had been fulfilled.

Describing itself as the Akhil Bharatiya Congress, the new outfit has extended support to the Mayavati government, which faces a trial of strength during the budget session next month.

Apart from Singh — expelled from the Congress six months ago after his arrest in a murder case in Rae Bareli — the seven deserters are Kameshwar Upadhyay, Dinesh Singh, Shyam Narain Tiwari, Virendra Singh Bundela, Kazim Ali, Vinod Kumar Singh “Kakka” and Rajpal Tyagi.

Justifying his decision to treat Akhilesh Singh as a member of the legislature party, Tripathi said many high court rulings supported his view that the 10th Schedule of the Constitution did not recognise an unattached member. After his expulsion from the Congress, Singh had been declared an unattached member of the Assembly.

Although Mayavati’s political managers had been trying to engineer a split in the Congress for some time, today’s developments caught the party’s state leaders napping.

Akhilesh Singh led a delegation of six Congress MLAs to meet Tripathi in the morning. The Speaker kept confabulating with them for more than three hours before the seventh MLA, Raj Pal Tyagi, joined them.

Announcing his decision to recognise the splinter group, Tripathi said as Akhilesh Singh was legally a Congress MLA, he was included to make up the eight needed for a valid split.

Tripathi rejected Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tewari’s argument that Singh had ceased to be a Congress member after he was expelled and declared unattached. “We will not only move court against this unconstitutional decision but also bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker in the next session,” Tewari said.

He claimed that the Congress MLAs were held captive in the Speaker’s chamber for five hours and were threatened and coaxed into supporting Mayavati.

The Congress has an effective strength of 23 in the House and at least eight members were needed for the split to be valid. But when only seven reached the Speaker’s chamber after hours of waiting, Tripathi announced that the unattached MLA would also be treated as part of the Congress.

“The Supreme Court had clearly held that there is no provision of an unattached member in the 10th Schedule. If there is any split, the unattached member will be treated as a member of the party on the symbol of which he or she had won the election,” Tripathi said.

The Speaker said Tewari had written a letter to him today saying no decision should be taken unless the rebel legislators appeared before him.

“All the eight were physically present with me and they verbally accepted their wish to leave the party,” he said.

This is the second time that the Congress has split in the state after 1997, when 20 of its MLAs led by Naresh Agarwal had formed a separate group to support the Kalyan Singh government after Mayavati walked out of the coalition. All the defectors had been made ministers.

Political observers said Mayavati decided to split the Congress because she was not sure of the support of the BJP rebels.

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