The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP in knots over Najma entry

New Delhi, June 11: Najma Heptullah formally joined the BJP today, a day after being nominated its Rajya Sabha candidate from Rajasthan.

However, the BJP tied itself in knots trying to explain why she had joined the party after being nominated for the Upper House election instead of the other way round.

Najma, the outgoing Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson, was associated with the Congress for 25 years before falling out with Sonia Gandhi.

“She (Najma) was to become a member yesterday itself but there was a time constraint,” BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said. Najma met BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu this morning as she was inducted into the party.

But the BJP did not show her off to the media as it had done whenever it inducted a celebrity or political heavyweight in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Elaborate welcome ceremonies had been held for yesteryear Bollywood stars Suresh Oberoi and Poonam Dhillon, long-forgotten television actors like Gajendra Chauhan and even a politician with a criminal record like D.P. Yadav. But Najma was kept away from the media and Naqvi could not explain why.

Najma was all praise for the BJP in an interview with the PTI: “What (the) BJP has done in the last six years in the field of development, I think it has the most secular agenda which is above caste, creed or religion.” She added: “I feel development is the most secular agenda.”

But the new BJP inductee, who had criticised the Congress chief before last month’s polls, refused to answer questions on Sonia.

Najma said the National Democratic Alliance government had given her the rank of a cabinet minister when she was made chairperson of the International Parliamentary Union in 1999. “We should look at it in a positive manner,” she said. The Rajya Sabha MP added that her nomination showed the BJP respected the “sacrifices and contributions” of individuals and was undoing its “anti-secular” image.

The BJP is also thinking of accommodating Arun Shourie — a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh — who was not on the list of 16 party candidates announced yesterday. Murli Manohar Joshi and Chattrapal Singh are certain to win from the state for they need 32 votes each to be elected and the BJP has 82. Shourie could be fielded as the third candidate from there if he is sure to win; otherwise Singh might make way for him.

“We are looking at the chances of garnering the surplus votes of parties like the BSP and Independents to see if the shortfall can be made up. Only if we are 100 per cent sure will Shourie be fielded,” a senior leader said.

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