NATIONAL

Najma Heptulla joins BJP

NEW DELHI, JUNE 11. The Vice-Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptulla, today resigned from the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, which decided last night to field her as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan. Her present and fourth consecutive term in the Upper House ends on July 4.

"Ms. Heptulla met the BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, at his residence this morning and completed the formality of joining the party," the BJP vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said today.

"We have learnt that she resigned from the Congress just before the meeting of the central election committee yesterday evening where she was selected as the BJP candidate for the Rajya Sabha," Mr. Naqvi said when asked whether the BJP had named her as its candidate even while she remained a member of the Congress.

Mr. Naqvi said hotelier Lalit Suri, candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Orissa, was also a party member now.

He denied that the former Minister for Disinvestment, Arun Shourie, had been "dropped" from the list of candidates.

"There are still a few seats left which we hope to win," he said. "It is wrong to say that the BJP has denied a ticket to Mr. Shourie." Not everyone can be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha or in the list of office-bearers. There are many considerations and criteria, which the central election committee has to consider when deciding the party candidates.

There was no rule that defeated Lok Sabha candidates should not be taken into the Rajya Sabha.

"The party has to consider the person's total work for the party, his or her seniority and usefulness to the party in Parliament ... party leaders are working in different areas, whether in Parliament, in the office-bearers' team, in the national executive or in other positions," he said.

`Political opportunism'

The Congress said that by agreeing to be a candidate of the BJP, Ms. Heptulla had "shown her commitment" to the ideology of a party that had provided her the opportunity to be a member of the Rajya Sabha for 24 years.

"If there is any award for political opportunism, it should go to her," the party spokesperson, Anand Sharma, said.

As far as the Congress was concerned Ms. Heptulla has ceased to be its member the day she accepted an award from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, he said.

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