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Thakre mission fails, BJP to get tough with rebels

NEW DELHI NOV. 10. The Bharatiya Janata Party's problem of dissidence among its MLAs in Uttar Pradesh is far from over. The former party president, Kushabhau Thakre, returned here today after more than a week's stay in Lucknow without success in working out a compromise formula which would satisfy both the dissidents and the party leadership. The party president, Venkaiah Naidu, was busy in meetings till late at night hoping to work out some face-saving formula ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls in the State.

But there was more than a hint that the BJP may be left with no option but to use its last weapon, disqualification, against the dissident ring leaders. Mr. Naidu said in New Delhi and the BJP State unit president, Vinay Katiyar, was reported to have said in Lucknow, that the MLAs had crossed the `Lakshman rekha' (the outer limit) and it was time for strong disciplinary action.

The other battle being waged jointly by all the parties in the State against the entry of the arms dealer, Suresh Nanda, in the Rajya Sabha elections has also taken a new twist. Election Commission sources here confirmed that Mr. Nanda had informed the Commission that he had written a letter "under intimidation'' stating that he was withdrawing from the contest and that the letter should be ignored. The letter of withdrawal would not be considered when scrutiny of nomination papers for the elections is taken up tomorrow. "In any case, the technical position is that withdrawal can take place only after scrutiny is completed,'' Commission sources said.

Mr. Nanda has made allegations of assault, fraud and forgery against some political bigwigs, including those of the BJP, and he has demanded proper inquiry and action against the guilty. His charge is that every underhand method was used to prevent him from contesting the polls.

Mr. Nanda's entry into the contest has created quite a stir among all political parties, as they feared that he would be successful in luring away MLAs from their fold. Especially worried were the nominees of the four major parties in the State. The sense of relief they had felt on Saturday that he had withdrawn from the contest evaporated today.

Apart from the `Nanda factor', another worry for the BJP is the open support of 12 BJP dissidents to their own nominee, Yashwant Singh, for the lone Council seat. If the ruling coalition were to lose this vote, it would confirm its loss of majority.

Some of the dissidents have said that they were ready to talk to the top two leaders — the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani. But here, the view was that such a meeting cannot take place unless the "ground work is done''. In short, some compromise formula is agreed upon.

The fact that today, senior leaders were hinting at steps towards disqualification was an admission that the cancer of dissidence needed radical surgery. The party has hesitated to take this step as it would mean that the majority margin of the Mayawati Government would be reduced, making it more vulnerable to the Samajwadi Party's plan to bring it down.

And if the U.P. Government and the BJP were to "roll back'' all the steps taken — suspension, registering of cases and arrest of two MLAs — to pave the way for a compromise, which is the demand of the dissidents, it would only confirm their allegation that the action was politically motivated.

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