The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Samata simmers again

New Delhi, Feb. 10: A Samata Party leader today petitioned the Election Commission to revoke the Bihar party executive’s dissolution or derecognise the party.

P.K. Sinha, Samata leader in the Bihar Legislative Council and national executive member, belonging to defence minister George Fernandes’ camp thus thrust the party into a fresh crisis. Sinha said the executive committee’s dissolution was “unauthorised, unconstitutional, undemocratic and unwarranted” when organisational polls, to be held under specific directions of the commission, were pending. The move, aimed at railway minister Nitish Kumar, is part of the ongoing proxy war between the Fernandes and Kumar camps to control the Bihar unit, the party’s mainstay.

Last month, Kumar had remote-controlled the resignation of Bihar unit president Raghunath Jha and the subsequent disbanding of the state executive.

Jha has now convened a meeting of party officebearers in Patna on February 15 to take on Kumar politically. According to Jha, he is getting good response from the party rank and file and will conduct an “andolan (agitation)” to restore party democracy.

In a veiled attack on Kumar, Jha said: “I want the party to function democratically, (and) not (be controlled) by a group of MPs.” He referred to the suspension of Brahmanand Mandal, Lok Sabha MP, for “daring to criticise the railway minister”.

Early last month, the party was on the verge of a split with seven of 14 party MPs close to Kumar demanding Jha’s scalp.

To avert a split, Fernandes convened a parliamentary party meeting on January 9 and secured Jha’s resignation. Subsequently, the Bihar party executive was disbanded and Sinha removed as state spokesperson.

At the same meeting, Rajya Sabha MP Vasist Narayan Singh -– considered close to Kumar –- was appointed convenor to oversee the party’s membership drive that began in mid-December and was scheduled to close on March 15.

Earlier, at the Rajkot national council meeting on October 29, the Samata had finalised the calendar for organisational polls and told the Election Commission the process would be over by April 6.

Soon after, MPs close to Kumar threatened to split the party over Jha.

Sinha, who today personally called on deputy election commissioner Sayan Chatterjee, said in his five-page petition that Jha’s removal and the state executive’s dissolution were violative of the party constitution and commission directives.

Neither the Samata parliamentary party nor the party president can take such a decision, he said. According to Sinha, only a meeting of the party national executive council can remove the state president.

He told the Election Commission that under Para 16A of the Election Symbol (Reservation and Allotment order 1968 read with Section 21A of the RP Act, 1951), the commission could take action against the Samata for its deliberate flouting of the lawful direction and instructions of the commission.

“Jha's resignation, obtained under duress, is no resignation, Sinha told The Telegraph in front of Jha at his residence. “It was (secured) under threat of a split.”

Shambhu Shrivastwa, Samata general-secretary and national spokesperson, however, was guarded in his reaction. He said he had just received a copy of the petition and would react after going through the content.

“The party has done nothing to warrant derecognition,” he said. “We will make detailed comments after studying and discussing it (the petition) in the party.”

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