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Valley cross-vote churns BJP

Srinagar, April 15: The BJP has got all its 11 MLAs in the state to resign their seats after seven of them voted for candidates of the National Conference-Congress alliance in the Legislative Council elections.

“All 11 have submitted their resignations. All of them have been summoned by the party high command. Their fate will be decided by the party president (Nitin Gadkari) at a meeting on April 19,” state BJP president S.S. Manhas said.

The party hasn’t yet been able to identify which seven had cross-voted, which is why it has got all 11 to resign. The cross-voting has led to an uproar in Jammu, which had elected all the 11 BJP members in the 87-seat Assembly.

Asked whether the MLAs may have been bribed, Manhas said: “How do I know?” BJP sources, though, said the party was investigating all possible angles including bribery.

The incident has left the BJP leadership red-faced after the party’s impressive performance in the 2008 Assembly elections, when it rode the pro-Amarnath land agitation in Jammu to raise its tally from one to 11.

BJP general secretary J.P. Nanda, who flew from Delhi to Jammu yesterday to take stock of the situation, said the party had been hurt by the MLAs’ act.

Elections for six vacant council seats were held on April 13. The ruling National Conference (NC) won three, ally Congress bagged two and the Opposition People’s Democratic Party won the remaining seat. That BJP nominee Ranjit Singh polled only four votes showed there was cross-voting.

The Assembly has 87 elected members and two nominated members, but one of the elected MLAs abstained from voting.

Of the 88 Assembly votes polled for the two seats from Jammu region, Choudhary Noor Hussain (NC) and Yashpaul Khajuria (Congress) got 30 each. This adds up to eight more than the coalition’s strength of 52, made up of 29 NC and 18 Congress members and five others including Independents.

Jammu has witnessed several protests against the cross-voting over the past three days, with people demanding stern action against the erring legislators. The Jammu unit of the Bhartiya Vidyarthi Sena called it a betrayal of the “Hindus and innocent people of Jammu”.

“They (the MLAs) have sold the faith of the people of Jammu to anti-Jammu forces,” Sena state president Vikrant Sharma said. He has asked the governor to order a judicial probe and declare the elections invalid.

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