Patna, Aug. 9: Chhotubhai Vasava, the sole Janata Dal United MLA in Gujarat, has done a Nitish Kumar on Nitish Kumar, keeping party leaders guessing on which way he voted in the Rajya Sabha elections.
JDU chief general secretary K.C. Tyagi told The Telegraph that Vasava had been told by chief minister Nitish Kumar - also the party president - to vote for the BJP. But news trickled in that the Congress's Ahmed Patel had gone to the JDU MLA's house to thank him for his vote. Tyagi, though, dismissed the reports, stressing that Vasava had also met BJP president Amit Shah.
Tyagi insisted that Vasava had voted for the BJP nominee Balwantsinh Rajput, who is pitted against Patel. However, even before the counting was scheduled to begin at 5pm, Vasava, serving his sixth term from Jhagadiya Assembly constituency of Bharuch, revealed he had voted for Patel.
Vasava, who has been championing the cause of a separate state of Bhilistan comprising the tribal-dominated parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, was quoted as saying that the BJP had done nothing for the welfare of tribals in the 22 years it has been in power in Gandhinagar. He also denied that he had received any instructions from Nitish.
"The BJP has ruled the state for 22 years but has ignored the tribal areas, which remain undeveloped as the government has done nothing for the poor and tribal population," Vasava told PTI.
He said the decision to vote for the Congress nominee was solely his own and not necessarily that of the party he represents. "Nitish Kumar did not contact me over voting, and there was nothing like a whip issued by the party in this regard. The decision to vote for Patel was my own," he said.
Earlier in the day, Vasava had refused to reveal whom he voted for. "I have cast my vote in the national interest," Vasava told reporters in Gandhinagar soon after voting began in the morning.
Red-faced JDU sources said Vasava had kept the party in the dark and the leaders were caught unawares in the same manner that RJD chief Lalu Prasad was when Nitish resigned as chief minister and walked over to the BJP on July 26.
Nitish's former allies are chuckling. "It was poetic justice," said a senior Bihar Congress leader.
Ever since Nitish crossed sides, party units in other states have shown defiance. Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala Veerendra Kumar refused to back Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential poll. In Maharashtra, the JDU's face Kapil Patil has openly expressed reservations about Nitish aligning with the BJP.
The JDU yesterday removed Arun Srivastav from the post of party general secretary in Gujarat for "unauthorisedly" writing to the returning officer of the Gujarat Assembly appointing an election agent for the Rajya Sabha election. "The act of yours not only amounts to anti-party activity, breach of discipline but is also treachery," a letter to Srivastav by Tyagi said.