The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cross-vote cloud on RS poll

New Delhi, Nov. 7: With BJP dissidents still ranged against the leadership and the first manifestations of a rebellion in the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Uttar Pradesh allies are keeping fingers crossed, hoping their official candidates win their Rajya Sabha seats without the embarrassment of cross-voting.

Chief minister Mayavati, on a fire-fighting mission in the capital, today called on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to find out if a consensus candidate could be fielded for the third seat which is vacant in the BJP’s quota.

Yesterday, the BJP had announced only two candidates, national general secretaries Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, though technically it can win three seats — the last arising out of a byelection following T.N. Chaturvedi’s appointment as Karnataka Governor.

But BJP sources admitted they were wary of putting up a candidate for fear that it would “expose the dissension within the party”. The BJP has 14 votes to spare after the quota of 37 each for Rajnath and Naqvi and needs another 23 to see its candidate through in the byelection.

Before meeting Advani, Mayavati told reporters that the BJP could have its candidate for the third seat as Chaturvedi was from the party. “(The) BSP would support any candidate fielded by the BJP for the third seat,” she stressed.

However, BJP and BSP sources later said that after today’s suspension of a BSP legislator, the collective wisdom was that rather than put up someone from either party, they should take other allies like the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Loktantrik Congress into “confidence” and zero in on a consensus nominee.

The BJP was earlier keen on Shiv Kumar, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s constituency manager, but later apparently toyed with other names, mainly those from big business. Those doing the rounds were of hotelier Lalit Suri, who is no longer as closely identified with the Congress as he used to be, Suresh Nanda, son of Admiral Nanda of the HDW submarine deal, and B.K. Modi of Modi Xerox. The last has been a staunch RSS-VHP backer.

In the current scenario, the BJP and the BSP together have five seats, excluding Chaturvedi’s. The BJP initially hoped that the BSP would agree to give it three in exchange for its support for a Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council seat. But after the rebellion by MLA Jai Prakash Yadav, the BSP pre-empted the BJP and announced three candidates of its own.

BJP sources said Rajnath was selected against the wishes of a section of the state unit, which held him responsible for “stoking” the ongoing dissidence. Naqvi’s name found favour because he is a Muslim, is close to party president M. Venkaiah Naidu and is looked at as a counter to the party’s only other Muslim MP and minister, Shahnawaz Hussain.

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