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BJP, Sena threaten to quit House

Mumbai, Feb. 21: In a startling attempt to force the Maharashtra government to hold Assembly polls with the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP today threatened to have Opposition MLAs resign en masse if it did not have its way.

Making no secret of his party’s motive while announcing the decision, BJP leader Pramod Mahajan said the idea was to make the best of the “feel-good factor” sweeping the nation. “We will do all that is possible so that simultaneous polls are held in the state.”

This is the first time that a political party is resorting to such measures to force dissolution of an Assembly. The BJP has been justifying the decision to hold early general elections as the prerogative of the leader of the House, but it has shown no qualms about trying to enforce a different set of rules in Maharashtra.

The Democratic Front government reacted swiftly to the announcement, terming it a “ridiculous move and a blatant attempt at blackmail”.

The state home minister and Nationalist Congress Party (Pawar group) leader, R.R. Patil, said the resignations, when they do happen, would make no difference to the ruling Congress-NCP coalition. “The threat is just an attempt to hijack democracy and trample upon the constitutional rights of people,” he said.

“The resignations would have been worthwhile had they been called against serious issues like the drought. But what is this' What is the desperate need to hold premature elections'’’

He said the NCP was firm it would hold Assembly polls “only” on completion of the House’s five-year term.

Mahajan, however, demanded immediate dissolution of the Assembly and said the House was constituted on October 19, 1999, and it was nearing completion of its tenure.

Making the Shiv Sena an accomplice in the deal, the BJP said the strategy had been decided at a joint meeting this morning. “The Sena-BJP has decided it will… opt for mass resignations,’’ Mahajan said.

Sena and BJP leaders met to discuss, among other things, the seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha polls. The parties agreed that the BJP would contest 26 of the 48 seats and leave the rest to the Sena. They also decided that constituencies would not be interchanged.

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