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Rebel rush to beat Bill

New Delhi, April 24: Faced with the Union Cabinet nod yesterday to a proposed anti-defection law/amendment, four rebel Biju Janata Dal MPs today announced they were no longer with the NDA and had joined Orissa Jana Shakti, a non-political outfit.

The proposed Bill bars even one-third defection.

Prasanna Kumar Patsani, P. K. Samantray, Jagannath Mallick and Kumudini Patnaik announced the move at a joint press conference. The four said they had ceased to be a part of the National Democratic Alliance as they had quit the BJD.

They were joined at the conference by Bijoy Mohapatra, chairman, Orissa Gana Parishad, who was the first BJD leader to revolt against party chief and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

The four MPs, however, introduced some ambiguity into their future plans when they said the Jana Shakti would be later converted into a political outfit and they would decide on their ties with the NDA at the outfit’s steering committee meeting on May 10.

Mallick hinted at a rethink on their alliance ties when he put the rider, “if NDA accepts our conditions”. He did not elaborate the conditions.

After yesterday’s split, the 10-member BJD parliamentary party has been reduced to three groups — the Jana Shakti unit, Naveen’s band of four, and two rebels, Prasanna Acharya and Bhartuhari Mahatab, who are fence-sitters for now. They had revolted against Naveen in September.

Rajeev Shukla in Cong

Journalist-turned-politician Rajeev Shukla today joined the Congress, saying only the party could lead the country to peace and development.

Two years ago, Shukla had joined the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh on a Loktantrik Congress Party ticket.

Shukla met Congress president Sonia Gandhi today to say that he had no ties with the BJP or the Sangh parivar. Formally admitting Shukla into the party, Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel said Shukla’s entry would strengthen the Congress.

The latest rebels yesterday wrote to Speaker Manohar Joshi, urging him to recognise them as a separate party in the House. The Speaker, they said, agreed in principle. He would, however, have to go through the formalities, which may take a week.

The rebel MPs said their future political course would be decided at the May 10 meeting of the Jana Shakti at Kendrapara.

A “massive rally” is being organised on May 11 to launch the Orissa Jana Shakti, which also comprises the Gana Parishad, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and a few senior state leaders of the BJD and the Janata Parivar.

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