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Revolt rocks BJP bypoll campaign

Ranchi, Oct. 7: Two BJP MLAs today defied the party and openly extended support to Babulal Marandi in the Koderma byelection, scheduled for November 6.

Ravindra Rai, MLA from Dhanwar in Giridih and the Jharia MLA, Kunti Devi, declared at a seminar in the Town Hall here that their conscience would not permit them to work for the official BJP candidate, Pranav Verma, in the bypoll.

Rai claimed that he had won his seat only because of the support extended by Marandi. He said he could not possibly work against his interests. Kunti Devi also recalled how Babulal had dug his heels to ensure the BJP nomination for her in face of opposition from other BJP leaders. “Is it possible for me to work against him'” she asked.

They were joined by other dissident BJP leaders such as the chairman of the Jharkhand Mineral Development Corporation, Deepak Prakash, former Ichagarh MLA Arvind Singh and the state vigilance board chief, Praveen Singh, who was expelled from the party recently. Prakash announced that he too has made up his mind to quit the BJP.

The open revolt and the packed Town Hall came as a severe setback to the BJP, which is desperately trying to curb dissidence. It also took the sheen off the party’s election campaign in Koderma, where BJP leaders are busy addressing public meetings as part of a road show.

State BJP president Yadunath Pandey put up a brave front and said that the party has taken the defiance seriously and will not remain a mute spectator to such activities by party legislators.

The BJP, however, can do little by way of taking action against the defiant duo. It can expel them from the party but that would allow them to continue as members of the Assembly and continue with their defiance even more openly. So the BJP appeared damned either way.

Both Rai and Kunti Devi declared that they were not opportunists “like several other people in the party” and would not betray Marandi. “It would be morally wrong on our part to work against Marandi,” said Rai, a former minister.

Arjun Munda, they said, joined BJP in 1999 and became the chief minister within four years. Now Pranav Verma, who campaigned for JMM in 2004, has become the official BJP candidate at Koderma. What kind of message is the party sending out, they asked.

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