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Dissident Gujarat BJP MLAs vote for Patil
July 19, 2007 18:26 IST
In an act of open defiance, a group of dissident BJP legislators in Gujarat on Thursday voted for the opposition candidate Pratibha Patil in the presidential election.
After exercising their franchise at the polling centre in the assembly, one of the rebel BJP MLAs, who did not wish to be identified, said about 15 party legislators had voted for Patil as they were unhappy with Chief Minister Narendra Modi's style of functioning.
BJP MLA Ramilaben Desai, suspended from the party for dissident activities, said she had voted for Patil.
Dhirubhai Gajera, the rebel BJP MLA from Surat, too indicated he had voted for Patil, saying he had done what he had promised to do in the past.
In the run-up to the polls, Gajera had publicly criticised Modi's style of functioning and declared he would vote for Patil, who is being opposed by the BJP-led NDA.
Gajera had asked other "unhappy" MLAs to vote for Patil to "teach" Modi and senior BJP leader L K Advani a lesson.
BJP legislator Bhavku Ungadh, a member of the anti-Modi camp who owes allegiance to former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, said, "I have voted according to my conscience. You can make out whatever you want from this."
Most of the rebel MLAs had been absent when Advani and Sushma Swaraj, who managed the campaign for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had visited Gandhinagar to seek the support of BJP lawmakers for the NDA-backed independent candidate.
The run up to the polls saw the ruling BJP taking desperate measures to prevent some of its MLAs from cross-voting in support of the rival candidate. Several BJP MLAs were kept in "safe locations" like houses of ministers and a recreation centre in Mehsana.
Dhanraj Kella, the BJP MLA from Amreli district, told PTI, "After last night's meeting of the MLAs it was decided that all of us should be kept together. Some were told to stay at ministers' houses while some were accommodated at a water park in Mehsana district."
The customary meeting of the BJP MLAs before the start of the monsoon session of the Gujarat assembly began this morning but some legislators like Gajera, Ungadh and Bechar Badhani boycotted the meet.
When polling began this morning, Modi and his cabinet colleagues were among the first to vote.
By afternoon, all 182 MLAs of the Gujarat Assembly (the BJP has 130 MLAs, Congress 48, independents and Janata Dal-United two each) had cast their votes, officials said.
BJP MP Suryakant Acharya too voted in the assembly premises, they said.