| Rebel BJP leaders Ganga Bhakt Singh, Ajit Singh, Ramashees Rai and Avadh Pal Singh Yadav at a news conference in Lucknow. (PTI)
Lucknow Nov. 6: The BJP high command rushed Union minister Uma Bharti to Lucknow this evening to salvage operations as the party appeared to be heading for a split with rebels threatening to form a separate group within the legislature.
A formal announcement, however, was deferred following Bharti’s talks with dissident leaders Ganga Bhakt Singh and Ramashees Rai. But there was no indication that the rebels had come around.
“She told me that Advaniji had asked her to meet me after returning from Ayodhya where she had gone on a day’s visit on Tuesday,” Rai said, adding that there was no change in the rebels’ stand.
Earlier, 26 dissident MLAs, who met today after a self-imposed two-day ceasefire, hinted that they might mar the BJP’s pitch during the coming Rajya Sabha elections.
The elections to 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh are scheduled for November 18 and the last date for filing nominations is October 8. With 88 MLAs, the BJP is in a position to win two Rajya Sabha seats with 11 votes to spare. However, cross-voting by rebels can upset these calculations.
The elections have posed an immediate threat to the BSP-BJP coalition. In an electoral college of 403, a candidate needs 37 votes to win and the BSP has already announced its three candidates.
Cross-voting may affect the chances of BJP nominees Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Rajnath Singh though the party hopes that Rajnath might cut into the dissidents’ votes.
“The leadership has closed the doors for reconciliation and we are now in a position to form a separate group in the House without attracting provisions of the anti-defection Act,” a spokesman of the rebels’ BJP Bachao Samiti told reporters after their meeting.
In tune with Independents, whose leader Raghuraj Pratap Singh has been jailed for defying Mayavati, the BJP dissidents today reiterated their demand for a special session of the Assembly.
“The Governor must summon the House and ask Mayavati to prove her majority since there is tremendous resentment against her government’s coercive action against those opposed to her,” Ganga Bhakt, convener of the samiti, said.
Though the Governor has shown no inclination to accept the rebels’ demand, he is under pressure with the Congress and other non-BJP parties lending voice to the issue and calling for a special session of the House.
To keep up the tempo, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has announced a state-wide protest from November 11. “Mayavati is trying to intimidate those who oppose her. We will oppose recent action against MLAs on the streets and will not sit idle till the government goes,” he said.
Ganga Bhakt had met the Governor on Sunday to press for his intervention. “We have apprised the Governor about the measures the Mayavati government is trying to take against the MLAs who have expressed no confidence against her government and sought his protection,” he said.
In a statement from prison, Raghuraj claimed that more than 35 BJP legislators have promised to form a Rashtrawadi Bharatiya Janata Party. “We will never succumb to pressure,” he said.
While state BJP chief Vinay Katiyar claimed that the leadership’s efforts to wean away dissidents from the warpath had met with some success, chief minister Mayavati asked BSP workers to prepare for fresh elections if the crisis is not resolved.
“If we are pushed, we will contest the Assembly elections in alliance with the BJP and wipe out Mulayam Singh and his friends,” Mayavati told a party workers’ meeting here today.
Raja Bhaiyya aides
Forty-one supporters of Raghuraj Pratap Singh were today booked under the gangsters Act, police said.
Some of the gangsters held, including some block pramukhs and members of zila parishads, are hardcore criminals wanted in several cases. Singh is in Fatehgarh jail after he was arrested for allegedly threatening BJP legislator Puran Singh Bundela.
The arrests have been made in view of the proposed “jail bharo” agitation by Singh’s men from tomorrow.