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BUZZ in Parliament shifts to BJP's tussle within

Last updated on: March 21, 2012 00:49 IST

BUZZ in Parliament shifts to BJP's tussle within

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Even as Mukul Roy took the oath of office as railway minister in the presence of a sombre-looking Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, whose body language showed the discomfort of the Congress with its ally Trinamool Congress which has given them a run around, the United Progressive Alliance managers were sighing with relief on Tuesday, says Neerja Chowdhury.

They had reason to smile because both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party voted with the UPA, shooting down the Opposition's amendments to the President's address in the Rajya Sabha.

This was a matter of satisfaction for the Congress, because the BSP also voted with the Congress on Tuesday, whereas it had only "absented" itself in the Lok Sabha a day earlier.

The situation was summed up by a Congress wag, "We can at least sit back for the next two days."

The scene of action moved to the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday, with an intensification of the war at the top echelons of the party.

The sword continued to dangle over its head with a defiant BS Yedyurappa -- he is insisting on his reinstatement as chief minister of Karnataka, now that the high court has given him a clean chit, and he has taken off with around 70 party members of Parliament to a resort --showing no signs of giving up his rebellion.

Some in the party blamed BJP chief Nitin Gadkari for inviting trouble, having promised Yedyurappa that he would be reinstated once the court cleared him, without discussing the matter with others in the party.

Either the former CM should not have been removed, or if he was, he should not have been promised restoration of CMship, they felt.

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Image: Former Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyuruppa


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BUZZ in Parliament shifts to BJP's tussle within

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And now, the BJP leadership finds itself in an unenviable position, of being forced to give in "under pressure", rather like the Congress has been buffeted around by allies, or face a revolt in the party in Karnataka.

Given Yedyurappa's unyielding mood, the party can ill afford to risk a split in the state unit of the party and lose the one southern state it has under its belt, particularly when state elections in Karnataka are due in 2013.

Gadkari has also come under attack for the way Rajya Sabha nominations have been decided, and a senior leader such as Yashwant Sinha made an unusually strong statement at the BJP's Parliamentary Party meet that the nominations were up for sale, in the context of six party MLAs filing nomination papers for a "rank outsider", Anshuman Mishra, a UK businessman, who is contesting as an independent in Jharkhand.

BJP leader LK Advani is believed to have suggested that an emergency meeting be called to prevent the BJP MLAs in Jharkhand from voting for Mishra.

However, the subject of animated discussion among members of Parliament sitting in the Central Hall of Parliament on Tuesday centred on why SS Ahluwalia, deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha had been denied a ticket to the upper house.

The curious case of Ahluwalia has raised eyebrows not just in the BJP, but also across parties. It is well-known that Ahluwalia has been a troubleshooter for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha for years, ever since he left the Congress to join the saffron party, doing for the BJP what the parliamentary affairs minister does for the ruling party.

There were three theories being forwarded as explanations of why the deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha should have been denied a ticket --indicative of the deepening tussle within the party.

The first was that his candidature was not pushed by Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitly, because he was perceived as being close to Sushma Swaraj, LOP in the Lok Sabha.

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Image: SS Ahluwalia, deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha


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And that Gadkari played ball with Jaitly and gave the second ticket from Bihar -- the first ticket went to Ravi Shankar Prasad and the party is in a position to get only two MPs elected on its own -- to Dharmendra Pradhan.

It was being said that five BJP leaders had pitched for re-nominating Ahluwalia at the BJP's election committee meeting -- Murli Manohar Joshi, Advani, Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Shahnawaz Hussain -- but they could not carry the day because they were all from the Lok Sabha.

Jaitly, who is the leader of the BJP in the upper house, remained silent about his deputy leader. The speculation was that Jaitly now wants to bring in people into the Rajya Sabha who will be his "own" team, directly loyal to him.

Nor did Jaitly push the Janata Dal-United to leave the third seat for Ahluwalia -- once it became clear that   Prasad and Pradhan would be the two preferred candidates of the BJP, Swaraj had made the pitch that Ahluwalia be the party's third candidate and support for him should be garnered from alliance partner, the JD-U.

This too did not happen because the BJP leadership negotiating with the JD-U did not push hard for Ahluwalia.

The second theory which was doing the rounds in Parliament on Tuesday, weird though it sounded, was that several Congress leaders had managed to "engineer a situation" to keep Ahluwalia out, since they consider him as a "nuisance".

The third theory, equally far fetched, was that it was Swaraj who had somehow kept out Ahluwalia because he had been "gravitating" towards Jaitly.

Whatever be the explanation-or the politics -- of the keep-Ahluwalia-out move, it, like the Yedyurappa affair, has divided the BJP right down the middle, just when it needed to get its act together to keep up the pressure on a beleagured Congress.


Image: Sushma Swaraj, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha


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