Three secretaries in U.P. quit posts

The tussle for supremacy continues in the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, though the Assembly elections are just a fortnight away. While the projection of Uma Bharti as a possible chief ministerial candidate has not gone down well with senior leaders, the elevation of relatively junior functionaries to high posts has also led to heartburns.

On Tuesday, a flutter was created in the BJP circles following a statement by the senior leader Kalraj Mishra, that Ms. Bharti was not a chief ministerial candidate as “she was an outsider,” even as he ruled out the possibility of his being in the race. However, within hours, Mr. Mishra, who himself is contesting an election for the first time (from Lucknow East), backtracked and denied having said any such thing.

BJP State unit spokesman Vijay Pathak told The Hindu that those who knew Mr. Mishra would understand that he never made any controversial statement.

Now, perhaps in a bid to bury the controversy and to demonstrate that there is was no internal friction, Mr. Mishra has decided to campaign for Ms. Bharti in Charkhari (Mahoba district). Mr. Pathak said Mr. Mishra would reach Charkhari on Wednesday and address party workers along with Ms. Bharti, who is visiting the constituency for the first time since her candidature was announced by BJP president Nitin Gadkari. The BJP spokesman said Mr. Mishra's programme was decided earlier.

The issue of chief ministerial candidate had been left open by Mr. Gadkari, who earlier said the BJP would contest the polls under the leadership of the former Chief Minister Rajnath Singh, Mr. Mishra, the State unit president Surya Pratap Shahi and Ms. Bharti. On a recent visit to Lucknow, Mr. Gadkari said Mr. Singh was not interested in returning to U.P. politics.

While the issue of CM candidate has been left unsettled, the elevation of Mr. Rajnath Singh's son, Amit Kumar Singh alias Pankaj Singh, as general secretary of the U.P. unit has triggered a wave of protests with three secretaries — Daya Shankar Singh, Ashwini Tyagi and Santosh Singh — quitting their posts. They contend that they are senior to Mr. Pankaj Singh and should have been given preference.

Mr. Pankaj Singh had tried to get ticket to contest from either Lucknow East, or Varanasi Cantonment, but it was denied. Sources in the BJP said that while Mr. Mishra was made the candidate in Lucknow East, a senior leader was opposed to Mr. Rajnath Singh's son being fielded in Varanasi Cantonment. The sources said the leadership's decision to elevate Mr. Pankaj Singh was an attempt to placate the former Chief Minister.

Joins Congress

In a related development, the former MLC and former president of the BJP's youth wing, Ramashish Rai, joined the Congress. Mr. Rai was suspended from the BJP after he recently alleged that money had changed hands in the induction of the former BSP Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha in the party.