The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ajit flock on Congress holiday

Bhopal, May 27: The sun was setting and the heat-weary denizens had gathered by the twin lakes that are the city’s source of succour. At first glance, the nine men, dressed in casually in shirt-pant or kurta-pyjama, seemed like any other person queuing up for the Rs 35-per head boat ride on the bada talaab (big lake). But a closer look showed they were being chaperoned by intelligence and special branch sleuths in plainclothes, hands almost touching service revolvers.

Swami Om Vaish, Ganga Prasad Pushkar, Babu Lal, Tejpal Singh, Prem Singh, Shiv Pratap, Ranbir Rana, Yashwant and Virender Singh are the Uttar Pradesh MLAs of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. They are camping in Bhopal to avoid “poaching” by the BSP-BJP coalition. BSP leader Mayavati is on a tour of the US, UK and Canada, but the fear of an imminent split has forced Ajit to ferry his men to Digvijay Singh’s land.

And Digvijay has been a kind host. This is the third time he has extended his hospitality to breakaway groups. First it was Shankersinh Vaghela’s bunch of rebel BJP MLAs, who brought down the Keshubhai Patel regime in Gujarat. Then it was the Nationalist Congress Party legislators who fled to Indore to escape Shiv Sena poaching and save the Vilasrao Deshmukh government.

Ajit’s flock is swearing that they are on a “sight-seeing tour”, but the hotel register at Ranjeet Lake View, which shares a boundary wall with the chief minister’s 6, Shyamla Hills residence, told a different tale. The MLAs have been booked into Rs 950 per day rooms, courtesy the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee. MLA Babu Lal said they were guests of “Kaka Rolling Mill” headed by one Deep Chand at Govindpura. Local BJP leaders claimed Deep Chand was long dead.

The MLAs were yesterday taken to Sanchi, where Ashoka stupas propagate the emperor’s disenchantment with warfare. But the MLAs’ mind were definitely not on peace — their ears glued to cell phones, they were absorbing instructions from MLA Anuradha Chowdhary and their party chief from Delhi, guiding them in their mission to “teach” the BJP and Mayavati a lesson.

Ajit has 14 MLAs in Uttar Pradesh and he has expelled one Samarpal Singh. In the fast-changing political situation following his exit from the Vajpayee Cabinet, Ajit is said to be in touch with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress to put in place his plan.

Ajit, who is yet to formally withdraw support to the Mayavati regime, is confident his party’s withdrawal of support will spell doom for her. However, going by the number game in the 402-member Assembly, that would not be an easy task as Mayavati would still have a wafer thin majority subject to support from Independents.

Sources said the script to ferry the RLD MLAs from Lucknow to Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh was written by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh in close contact with the Congress high command.

While the action was in Bhopal, Digvijay was away in Panchmarhi, patiently hearing out party delegates on the power crisis and the lack of unity in the Congress.

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