Vikram Verma elected BJP chief in M.P.

BHOPAL, JULY 12. The working president of the Madhya Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Vikram Verma, was today elected by a clear two-third majority as the new State BJP unit president. He defeated Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan in a straight contest.

Mr. Vikram Verma, a Rajya Sabha Member, secured 206 votes while Mr. Chauhan, who represents the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency in Parliament, got only 83 votes.

Mr. Verma's election was announced before a huge crowd gathered inside the State headquarters of the party here this evening by the central returning officer, Mr. Ashwini Kumar. The news was greeted by a prolonged bursting of crackers and jubilation over the ``incident-free'' conduct of the election. This was significant since there was considerable tension in rival BJP camps yesterday after attempts by senior State leaders had failed to forge a consensus.

During the nomination stage, an impression was sought to be created by some BJP leaders that Mr. Chauhan's candidature reflected the mood of the youngsters in the party. But on close scrutiny, it was apparent that the battle for power was mainly between the group aligned with Mr. Lakhiram Agrawal on one side and that owing allegiance to the senior State party leader, Mr. Sunderlal Patwa. Mr. Chauhan was said to be drawing his strength from the Patwa faction.

Talking to newsmen soon after his victory, Mr. Verma said he would try to begin with a clean slate. The idea is to ``forgive and forget'' and work unitedly for strengthening the party to uproot the Congress from power in Madhya Pradesh, he said.