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12 MLAs urge U.P. Governor to convene special session

The rebel BJP MLAs with the Uttar Pradesh Governor, Vishnu Kant Shastri, in Lucknow on Thursday. — Photo: Subir Roy

The rebel BJP MLAs with the Uttar Pradesh Governor, Vishnu Kant Shastri, in Lucknow on Thursday. — Photo: Subir Roy  

LUCKNOW Oct. 31. In a development that took the Bharatiya Janata Party by surprise, 12 of its MLAs today claimed they had withdrawn support to the coalition government headed by Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, even as the BJP leadership was weighing the pros and cons of the steps that it could take to deal with the political crisis.

The dissident BJP MLAs, along with a number of MLCs and independents, drove to the Raj Bhavan this evening even while the State BJP coordination committee was discussing with the former party president, Kushabhau Thakre, the strategy to deal with dissidence.

The dissidents met the Governor, Vishnu Kant Shastri, to inform him of what they called "their decision to withdraw support to the BJP-BSP coalition Government" and seek the immediate summoning of an Assembly session to test the party's majority on the floor of the House. They claimed that the total number of dissident MLAs in the BJP was 20.

(However, according to PTI, the Governor tonight said in a communiqu� that the MLAs who met him did not talk of withdrawal of support. When asked by the Governor, they also did not mention about "the Government losing its majority", according to the communiqu�. They only demanded the restoration of democratic conventions and adherence to constitutional norms, it said.)

The State BJP leadership was taken aback by the quick developments in the dissidents camp and appeared ill-prepared for the crisis. Even while the dissidents were ringing up reporters asking them to reach the Raj Bhavan to witness the drama of the withdrawal of support the State BJP chief, Vinay Katiyar, appealed to them to come back to the party-fold.

After its two-hour long deliberations, the BJP coordination committee decided to take action against only one MLA, Kovid Kumar Singh, by suspending him from the party in the hope that good sense would prevail on the others. Within minutes, they realised that their hopes were misplaced.

Reacting to the withdrawal of support, Mr. Katiyar said there certainly was a crisis in the party but the dissidents were not in a position to topple the Government. Taking a technical view of the situation, he said the BJP had 88 members in the Assembly and a total of 29 members were needed to cause a split in its legislature group.

Talking to newspersons after coming out of the Governor's chamber, Kovid Kumar Singh, said they had told Mr. Shastri that the coalition Government had now lost every right to rule. Ministers, he alleged, were looting public money and Opposition legislators were being victimised for political reasons. The Government must go immediately and a new government should be allowed to take office in its place. The Governor had assured them of proper action on their demand.

The current wave of dissidence in the BJP in the wake of the last expansion of the Mayawati Ministry seems to have ushered in a new era of political instability in the country's most populous State.

The Samajwadi Party has been waiting in the wings to form its own government with the help of the Congress, BJP dissidents and independent MLAs.

The question is if the anti-defection law is applicable to the BJP dissidents. The dissidents say it is not as they have not defied the party whip in the Assembly.

From the Government's point of view, technically it might still be enjoying a majority but in terms of sheer numbers it no longer has the support of a majority MLAs in the House.

The development is also a direct attack on the prestige of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose "nominee'', Lalji Tandon, is the target of the dissidents' ire.

They blamed Mr. Tandon for the party's woes by creating imbalances in the selection of BJP Ministers to the Mayawati Government.

The developments have also come as a jolt to the BJP general secretary, Rajnath Singh, whose favourites are among the dissident's. Most of them are Thakur by caste. He had pleaded with the high command for a soft approach towards the rebels. All that has now become a thing of the past.

According to Kovid Kumar Singh, those who have withdrawn support to the Government are: Chandra Kant Mani Singh, Ram Pratap Singh, Daya Shanker Verma, Anil Verma, Sarvesh Singh, Ravindra Pundir, Narendra Sisodia, Puran Singh Bundela, Indradeo Singh, Mayankeshwar Singh and Anil Kumar Paswan besides Kovid Kumar Singh himself.

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