RS polls: Sinha objects to BJP support to independent

Rift in BJP over its decision not to field any candidate from Jharkhand for the Rajya Sabha elections came to the fore today with senior leader Yashwant Sinha saying he was "pained" by the party's support to an independent candidate and seeking corrective steps.

Sinha raised the issue of BJP's tacit support to independent candidate Anshuman Mishra at the Parliamentary Party meeting this morning and said someone from the party should have been fielded. He sought the intervention of senior BJP leader L K Advani who promised to speak to party President Nitin Gadkari.

"I have come across information according to which a certain person who has filed his nomination in Jharkhand as an independent candidate is also being supported by the BJP. "Six BJP MLAs have signed his nomination papers and top members of the BJP were present when this gentleman was filing his nomination paper. So a clear impression has gone that he is supported by the BJP," Sinha told reporters while referring to Mishra.

Feeling "pained" by this, he said, "I believe if we had to put up a candidate, we should have put up a worker of the party who has spent not years, but decades working for the party and not brought somebody from the outside and imposed him on Jharkhand and on the party."

Sinha said he had raised the issue at the meeting of the Parliamentary Party. "I said that our MLA should not be put on the auction block to the highest bidder and I am very satisfied that Advani ji has promised that he will speak to the National President of BJP and try and sort out the issue," he said.

Sinha said he would wait for the outcome of this intervention by Advani and then talk to media, if necessary.

At the parliamentary party meeting, Sinha was supported by a number of other MPs, with some of them even levelling allegations that the party had "sold" the Rajya Sabha ticket. The denial of ticket to Deputy Leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha S S Ahluwalia, MP from Jharkhand, also figured prominently in the meeting with members expressing their displeasure.

Shanta Kumar, BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh, said Ahluwalia was an effective leader in the Upper House and should have been given another term. The fact that no candidate has been put up by BJP from Jharkhand and instead Mishra will be supported further angered these leaders.

Bhola Singh, MP from Nawada, said the conscience of the party is "dead and it is bowing to money power". Parliamentary Party Chief L K Advani had to intervene after several MPs voiced their concern and assured the members that he would take up the issue with Gadkari, who is away in Mumbai.

Aaonla MP Maneka Gandhi urged that the Central leadership end the crisis in Karnataka and look into the demands of Yeddyurappa.

In the wake of these concerns and criticisms from party MPs from both Houses, BJP top brass is busy finding ways to salvage the situation. Since yesterday was the last date for filing of nominations for the Rajya Sabha biennial polls, the only option left is to issue a whip to party MLAs from the state concerned not to vote for a particular Independent candidate.

Sinha had said that party MLAs supporting Mishra would blunt the BJP's fight against corruption. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj conceded that "there is a sentiment building up in the party that we should not support Anshuman Mishra".

She said the central leadership came to know about Mishra only when it came to light that BJP MLAs in Jharkhand had signed on his nomination form as proposers and seconders. Swaraj cited precedents to say that a whip can be issued by the Central leadership to BJP MLAs not to vote for Mishra. "In an earlier election in Orissa for the Rajya Sabha we had asked our MLAs to abstain," she said.

Since both BJP and JMM have 18 MLAs each in Jharkhand and the vote of only 27 legislators is required to win a Rajya Sabha seat, BJP too could have put up a candidate. JMM has fielded R K Agarwal as its candidate. Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj had also insisted in the meeting that BJP should have prevailed upon JD(U) to give it three seats in Bihar as it has more spare votes than JD(U). This could have helped Ahluwalia get a renomination.

These dissenting voices have also dented Gadkari's supremacy in the party. Belgaum MP Suresh Angadi, along with Gandhi, raised the issue of Yeddyurappa's reinstatement. They both demanded that since he has the support of the majority of party MLAs, he should be made Chief Minister again. There are indications that Yeddyurappa may be reinstated in the next few days.

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