TAMIL NADU

BJP warns members through expulsion

Bangalore March 29. By expelling six of the 10 legislators for cross-voting, which had resulted in the defeat of its candidate, D.K.Taradevi Siddhartha, in Wednesday's biennial election to the Rajya Sabha from the State, the BJP has killed two birds with one shot. It has sent a warning to the other dissidents and has also made the game plan of dissidents to cause a split in the party next to impossible now.

The number of dissidents in the 41-member BJP Legislature Party was 13 (before the expulsion) against the 14 required to cause a split. Even among the 13, three were said to be against the extreme step of splitting the party to air their grievances, and this had prevented the split.

With the expulsion of the six, the numerical strength of the Legislature Party has come down to 35 and assuming that the dissidence continues, it requires 12 to cause a split now. This, in effect, means that the dissidents will have to look for an additional five members, which according to the party sources, is an exercise in futility.

The astonishing speed with the leadership has acted to expel the six "hardcore'' members, though it had identified 10 legislators who had cross-voted, follows the ignominy the party has suffered, the second such in less than a month.

The defeat in the Rajya Sabha election has been a bitter pill to swallow for the party as, unlike in the February 27 byelection to the Lok Sabha from the Kanakapura Constituency where the people defeated the party, it is the party's own legislators who inflicted the blow.

The defeat of Ms. Siddhartha cannot be said to be totally unanticipated, as the dissidence in the party had reached its zenith a few days earlier with some keen on forcing a "split'' in the Legislature Party. One of them had in a private talk said the group would not like to strike at the time of the Rajya Sabha election, as it did not want to take the blame of destroying a party.

The party sources said action was taken only against six of the dissidents for "strategic reason,'' which obviously is to teach a lesson to other dissidents and to make any effort to split the party difficult.

Apart from the fact that causing a split in the party has become virtually impossible, a consolation for the party is whatever the manoeuvres of the Janata Dal(U), a partner in the National Democratic Alliance, and the Janata Dal(S) will not be able to snatch away its status as the main Opposition party with the rank of a Cabinet status for its leader as their merger continues to remain a distant dream. Even if the two were to merge, their numerical strength will still fall below that of the BJP.

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