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Ashwini stoops, Lalmuni firm

Patna, March 23: The crisis in the BJP deepened today. Party nominee from Buxar, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, fell at Lalmuni Chaubey’s feet to coax him against contesting as an Independent but the latter was unmoved.

Ashwini reached Lalmuni’s house around 5am and wept uncontrollably. But the four-term septuagenarian MP from Buxar asserted: “Mere saath anyay hua hai, bardasht nahin karunga (Injustice has been meted out to me. I won’t tolerate it). I am not a liar. I will not give you (Ashwini) false hopes of changing my decision.”

Given Lalmuni’s standing as the party’s Brahmin face with nearly four decades of parliamentary and legislative experience, not to overlook the fact that he might damage the prospects of Ashwini, as well as Narendra Modi’s in neighbouring Varanasi, the BJP is all out to placate him.

Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan and senior RSS leaders met Lalmuni. But the angry Brahmin from Sahabad — dominated by Rajput descendents of Kuer Singh and traditional Kanyakubja and Saryupareen Brahmins — stuck to his guns. He questioned the “emerging order” in the BJP under Narendra Modi.

“The party’s founders — A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh — are still alive. As an old party activist, I feel ashamed to find present-day leaders not raising slogans in their favour. The founding fathers are missing from the party’s posters too. I am not going to take the party’s degeneration lying down,” he told The Telegraph.

Party sources said unlike Jaswant, opposed by Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, a strong lobby of “old guards” from the upper castes back Lalmuni. C.P. Thakur and Giriraj Singh had, apparently, registered their opposition to the “emerging order” by playing truant at Narendra Modi’s Muzaffarpur rally.

Some leaders fear Lalmuni’s revolt was bigger than the blast at Modi’s Hunkar Rally last year. “The Lalmuni bomb might rip the party apart from within,” said a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

Party insiders talked of a “growing division in the party on caste lines”. The Brahmin-Bhumihar lobby, the party’s core strength, supposedly “resents” the emergence of backward class leader Sushil Modi and the over-emphasis on Narendra Modi’s OBC roots.

“OBCs and EBCs will not shun their loyalty to entrenched backward class leaders like Nitish and Lalu Prasad overnight. But an over-emphasis on Modi’s OBC roots might create suspicion in the minds of upper caste leaders who left the Congress to join the BJP in the 1990s,” said a senior BJP strategist who fears “playing the backward class card might boomerang on the party”.


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