The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP shows ‘outsider’ habit dies hard

New Delhi, June 10: A day after the Supreme Court observed that it was “dishonest” to get elected to the Rajya Sabha from a state to which the candidate did not belong, the BJP squeezed such nominees into its list.

Of the 16 candidates finalised to fill the party’s quota of vacancies in the Upper House, three were nominated from states with which they had no relationship. Najma Heptullah has been fielded in Rajasthan, Lalit Suri in Orissa and Thirunavukkarasu from Madhya Pradesh.

Najma, officially still a Congress member, hails from Madhya Pradesh and had settled down in Mumbai after her marriage. Suri is a Delhi-based hotelier.

Thirunavukkarasu, a former member of the ADMK who switched sides to the BJP after a spat with Jayalalithaa, is from Tamil Nadu. But he will represent the Hindi heartland in the Rajya Sabha.

Asked to comment on the choice in the light of the raging controversy over Rajya Sabha elections, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “Let us cross the bridge when we come to it. The final verdict is still awaited.”

Yesterday, when the court cleared the decks for the Election Commission to hold the polls, it had made it clear that the election of candidates who contest from a state to which they do not belong will be subject to final orders. The order had come on petitions that challenged the Representation of the People Act which dispensed with the domicile requirement.

Ending days of “soul-searching” on whether it should “reward” defeated MPs, the BJP also decided to bring back prominent losers Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha to Parliament via the Upper House.

The BJP also nominated Dilip Singh Judeo, who was caught in the cash-on-disc scandal, though the party had stalled the first session of the Lok Sabha over “tainted” ministers. Other prominent candidates include Jaswant Singh, Pramod Mahajan and Shakuntala Hegde, the wife of the late Ramakrishna Hegde.

It had seemed like the end of the road for Najma, who burnt her boats with the Congress after she spoke out on Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign” origin. Sources said the BJP was keen on rewarding Najma because of her “image and standing” in Islamic countries and her ability to speak on minority-related issues.

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