The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels rope in arms dealer to force RS fight

Lucknow, Nov. 8: Indicating again that they had reached the point of no return, BJP rebels today sponsored the candidature of Delhi-based arms dealer Suresh Nanda to force a contest for 10 Rajya Sabha seats for which elections are to be held on November 18.

Nanda is contesting as an Independent against industrialist Lalit Suri for the Rajya Sabha seat vacated after the resignation of T.N. Chaturvedi for which a byelection is being held simultaneously.

Taken by surprise, BJP trouble-shooters are now trying to get Nanda’s paper rejected on technical grounds to save them embarrassment. With him in the fray, a contest will become inevitable for the regular seats for which 11 candidates filed papers at the close of nomination today.

This could upset BJP calculations even though the party has fielded only Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi for two seats and has the votes of 14 more MLAs to spare, political observers feel.

“Now that money bags have come into play, cross-voting on a large scale can affect the chances of the ruling party’s candidates,” a BJP leader admitted.

Both Mayavati and her opponents have shied away from fielding a party nominee for the byelection for fear of exposing their real strength.

But Rajnath, a BJP national general secretary, has made it clear that Suri, a Delhi-based hotelier who was once close to the Congress, will be supported by his party in the bypoll. The BJP rebels are openly backing Nanda.

While the contest for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats will reflect the magnitude of the rebellion within the BJP, the result of the contest for the lone byelection seat will virtually be a trial of strength between the ruling combine and the Opposition.

Apart from Nanda, other contestants for the Rajya Sabha seats include four candidates from the Samajwadi Party, three from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), two from the BJP and one from the Congress.

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly has witnessed cross-voting during the last two Rajya Sabha elections and the party leadership has identified 26 legislators who defied the party whip. However, it could not act against the rebels for fear of losing the thin majority the BJP government enjoyed then. “This time, the BJP leadership will witness an open violation of the whip,” claimed a rebel leader.

Before the dissidents marred the pitch by fielding Nanda, Suri was the consensus candidate of all the parties — the BJP, the Samajwadi, the BSP, the Rashtriya Kranti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal — for the byelection.

Now, Nanda will not only be challenging Suri in the Rajya Sabha bypoll but taking on bigwigs like Samajawadi leader Amar Singh, Rajnath and Naqvi of the BJP and Akhilesh Das of the Congress.

The only ray of hope for political leaders now is that the returning officer rejects Nanda’s papers. Congress MLA Pramod Tiwari has already filed a written objection before the returning officer, claiming that Nanda’s nomination papers are incomplete and that some of the signatures in the proposers’ column are forged.

The objection will come up for hearing during scrutiny on Saturday.

The rebel MLAs said that since the Governor had refused their plea for convening an Assembly session, they had decided to force a contest in these elections so that the real strength of the ruling coalition could be exposed.

“The voting pattern on November 18 will give a written proof whether or not the government is in a majority,” said the leader of the rebel group, Ganga Bhakt Singh.

Chief minister Mayavati , on the other hand, insists that results of the Rajya Sabha polls will not reflect her government’s majority claim.

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