The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shadow falls on Gujarat

New Delhi, Nov. 8: The decision of Uttar Pradesh BJP rebels to put up their own candidate for the Rajya Sabha byelection has unsettled leaders in the capital.

The choice of the candidate — arms dealer Suresh Nanda of HDW submarine notoriety — has heightened fears in the BJP camp so much that nobody was willing to vouch that the official nominees — Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — will win comfortably.

Although Nanda’s name was proposed only by 10 rebels, BJP sources said they would not “underestimate” his “capacity” to engineer large-scale cross-voting in the ranks.

BJP rebels claimed Nanda has the support of the Samajwadi Party — the single largest party with 144 MLAs.

Sources recalled how in the biennial elections two years ago, high-profile nominees like Singh and Sushma Swaraj had barely scraped through when a number of MLAs cross-voted for Rajeev Shukla despite him being a nominee of ally, the Loktantrik Congress.

“Something similar may happen again,” sources said.

Nanda filing his nomination for the biennial election has added to the BJP’s worry because, as sources, explained: “If the Rajeev Shukla chapter is repeated, it means certain defeat for either Singh or Naqvi.”

Sources said Singh had hop-ed that even if some BJP legislators voted against him, the loss of votes would be recompensed by those from the rebel camp, most of them being Thakurs like himself. Nanda’s entry may neutralise that hope.

Naqvi’s candidacy was also opposed by a section, on grounds of his being a Muslim and a perception that he was growing close to the high command.

The threat of cross-voting, sources said, was expected to have larger ramifications for the BJP. “The most immediate fallout, if it is on a large-scale, would be that our government goes,” they said.

The strategists were hard at work to ensure this did not happen. “Our endeavour would be to see that the government lasts at least until the Gujarat polls,” said sources.

While the durability of the Uttar Pradesh government may not have a direct bearing on the Gujarat outcome, the apprehension was the morale of the cadre in the poll-bound state may fall.

“As it is, the BJP has been losing election after election. But somehow we managed to put together a government in a crucial state like Uttar Pradesh. Its loss would be enormous,” said the sources.

Sources said Mayawati’s decisions to slap charges against the dissidents and put some behind bars was meant precisely to deter the lot from going the whole hog. She reportedly acted on the advice of the BJP leaders.

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