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Chouhan elected BJP LP leader amidst high drama
November 28, 2005 20:30 IST
Last Updated: November 29, 2005 01:06 IST
Amidst high-voltage drama marred by violent protests and walkout by angry Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti and her other supporting legislators, Shivraj Singh Chouhan was Monday night elected leader of the party's legislature group paving the way for his swearing in as Madhya Pradesh chief minister Tuesday.
As the legislature party meeting got under way at the BJP state headquarters in Bhopal, hundreds of Bharti supporters went on the rampage in the premises smashing chairs and other furniture, pulling down a decorated arch and burning effigies of senior BJP leaders including that of party general secretary Arun Jaitley.
As protests and chaos prevailed at the meeting venue, the police made a lathicharge and used force to push away Bharti supporters. The party central leadership warned indiscipline would not be tolerated.
Saffron-clad Bharti stormed out of the meeting in a huff along with 17 MLAs loyal to her and announced at an impromptu rally of her supporters that she would undertake a padyatra to Ayodhya to protest the party's central parliamentary board's decision selecting Chouhan to replace Gaur.
Emerging from the nearly two-hour stormy meeting, Jaitley, who was appointed central party observer along with two other general secretaries Pramod Mahajan and Rajnath Singh, told reporters that 154 of the party's 171 MLAs voted in favour of Chouhan. While one member took permission not to attend the meeting, 17 staged a walkout.
He said that in the democratic exercise held to choose the legislature party leader, some MLAs did not agree with the BJP central leadership's decision to appoint Chouhan.
Bharti accused the BJP leadership of showing disrespect to the democratic process and party constitution by "imposing" Chouhan as chief minister and alleged a "a fraud has been committed on the innocent people of the state who have been betrayed by the decision".
"I will take out the padyatra from Tuesday in which neither MLAs nor member of Parliament will accompany. I will seek pardon. For the election promises not being implemented in the state," she said.
Ruling out any move to quit the party, Bharti claimed BJP got votes during the last assembly polls "using my name" and said, "I will also take a pledge to ensure that the promises are fulfilled. Give me six months."
Bharti claimed she had snatched the paper from an MLA who had proposed her name as chief minister during the legislature party meeting and sought a secret ballot, which was turned down.
"How can a party like BJP not follow a system? There should be a system," she said adding, "if a system was followed, I would also have signed on the proposal (for Chouhan)," she said.
Condemning the use of police force on BJP workers, Bharti alleged "a stone was thrown at me from the party headquarters. I have been fighting for the party for so many years and now have become a target of stones."
An indication that the legislature party would not be a smooth affair came earlier in the day when Bharti, breaking her silence, attacked the party high command for naming Chouhan for the top post saying it was "unprecedented" in the country's political history as the decision was taken by the parliamentary board withnout consulting MLAs.
It was for the first time in India's history (that this has happened). A new chapter in Indian politics was created when the parliamentary board announced the leader even though the MLAs demanded a chance to elect their leader," a "hurt" Bharti, who was a contender for chief ministership, told reporters.
"This has never happenned in Congress or BJP or any other political party. Usually, the name of the leader is informally proposed and the announcement is made after the legislature party meeting. This is for the first time that the announcement has been made and the election will follow," she said surrounded by her supporters.
Refuting her charge, BJP parliamentary party spokesman V K Malhotra said in Delhi, "It is not for the first time that such a decision was taken. In Uma Bharti's case itself as also that of Vasundhare Raje in Rajasthan, the board had taken the decision to name them chief ministers. Such decisions are taken according to the need of the hour."
Bharti said she had made her stand on the issue clear to senior party leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Kishenchand Advani on Saturday when the decision was taken.
She said the party MLAs had made the demand to change the leadership in a memorandum drafted by her on October 16.
She claimed she herself had never wanted to be reinstated as chief minister, but said she was "hurt" with the decision to replace Gaur with Chouhan.
"I was elected chief minister of the state; elected by the people. I may be a sanyasin, but I am a human also. Obviously, I was hurt by the decision," she said.
Bharti rubbished a media report that she had called up BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley on Sunday and threatened to commit suicide if the decision was not reversed.
Bharti, who along with state ministers Gaurishankar Shejwar and Dhal Singh Bisen, stormed out of the meeting, positioned herself atop a car to announce her padyatra plan.
The situation become tense as Chouhan's supporters met headlong with those of Bharti and started pelting stones and other articles, prompting the police to use mild force.
The supporters had earlier clashed when Bharti loyalists had brought down a temporary welcome arch outside the state party office and ransacked the furniture, soon after the state BJP president arrived.
Nearly a dozen workers were injured, one critically, when mild lathicharge was carried out to disperse the crowd, police sources said.
As chaos reigned supreme, senior leaders, including outgoing chief minister Babulal Gaur who proposed Chouhan's name during the meeting, found it tough to reach the venue, while the central observers had to be taken through a door located at the rear side of the building.
Bharti walked nearly half-a-km from the BJP office as a symbolic start of her padyatra.
BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said a report on the entire episode will be submitted to party president L K Advani, following which a decision will be taken whether the walkout and subsequent actions amounted to indiscipline.
Since 17 MLAs, including Bharti, had walked out of the meeting, their vote was considered as "against Chouhan", he said.
Chouhan told the MLAs that apart from discharging his duties in a befitting manner, he will strive to allow his fellow colleagues to fulfil their responsibilities to lead the state for development.