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February 21, 1998


Kalyan Singh sacked, Jagdambika Pal CM

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

In a dramatic development barely 10 hours before the second and final round of polling in Uttar Pradesh begins, Jagdambika Pal, the new leader of the Loktantrik Congress, was sworn in as UP chief minister at 2216 hours IST, along with 17 ministers.

Kalyan Singh's Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was dismissed an hour earlier and Governor Romesh Bhandari invited Jagdambika Pal to form the new government.

Jagdambika Pal has been asked to prove his majority in the assembly by Tuesday, February 24.

Pal, 47, who broke away from the Congress to join the Indira Congress, led by N D Tiwari, had switched to the Loktantrik Congress barely four months ago. The Loktantrik Congress, which till now supported the Kalyan Singh government, was born after it split the Congress last October.

Of the 17 ministers sworn in with Pal, 14 belong to the Loktantrik Congress, one to the Bharatiya Kisan Kamgar Party, and one each from the Janata Dal and Janata Dal (Pandey), all of which are supporting his government. Pal said his party colleague Naresh Agarwal would be the deputy chief minister.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who flew into Lucknow late on Saturday night, said he would stage a fast unto death from midnight on Sunday to protest the governor's decision to sack Kalyan Singh without giving him a chance to prove his majority in the state assembly. Vajpayee is the BJP candidate in the Lucknow parliamentary election which will be held on Sunday.

Asked why he decided to part ways with the BJP, Pal, transport minister in the Kalyan Singh government, said, "Of late, Kalyan Singh had turned more and more communal in his behvaviour, and the turning point came with his objectionable statements on the Ayodhya issue, that was followed by riots in a few places. We realised that enough was enough and that we could not have got along with the BJP any longer."

However, when reporters put the same question to Naresh Agarwal, the Loktantrik party chief before Saturday's development, shot back, "Kalyan Singh was trying to engineer a split in our party, so we gave him tit for tat."

The Loktantrik Congress and the Janata Dal (Pandey) faction announced it had withdrawn support to the BJP government at about 1500 hours IST on Saturday. Pal also staked his claim to form a government.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party vice-president Mayawati, both of whom were present in Lucknow, immediately extended support to Pal. Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari did likewise.

Agrawal said he had given the letter withdrawing support to the governor in his capacity as president of the Loktantrik Congress. He claimed he had consulted most of his party's 22 MLAs in this regard.

Raja Ram Pandey, leader of the Janata Dal (Pandey), and his three-member legislature party also withdrew support to the Kalyan Singh-led government. He accused the state government of ''deviating from its commitment to provide social justice and acting purely on communal lines''.

Agarwal, Jagdambika Pal and Pandey said they told the governor that the Kalyan Singh government had been reduced to a minority in the 425-member assembly, the chief minister should be asked to resign and if he refused to do so, the government should be dismissed.

All three leaders claimed that with the withdrawal of support by 22 members of the Loktantrik Congress and three JD (Pandey) MLAs, the Kalyan Singh government was left with only 197 supporters in the Vidhan Sabha.

Agarwal and Jagdambika Pal also claimed the support of the BKKP, CPI and Janata Dal. K Hamid, the BKKP leader in the assembly, was present at Raj Bhavan with the Loktantrik Congress leaders.

While Mulayam Singh kept away from Raj Bhavan and preferred to send his emissary Ahmad Hasan, Mayawati staged a sit-in at the governor's home along with Pal and Congress leader Pramod Tiwari. They not only met the governor, but continued to camp at Raj Bhavan, seeking the "immediate dismissal of the BJP government."

The governor finally conceded their demand after prolonged closed-door parleys with BJP leaders and their opponents. Thereafter, he met with well-known constitutional expert R N Trivedi for over an hour.

The decision to dismiss the Kalyan Singh government and invite Pal to take oath as UP's new chief minister was taken at about 2100 hours.

The governor's action comes despite Kalyan Singh's demand that he be given a chance to prove his majority on the floor of the state assembly.The chief minister said the number of MLAs contained in the list submitted to the governor by Loktantrik Congress leaders was incorrect and urged President K R Narayanan to intervene in the matter.

One constitutional expert, who was consulted by Bhandari, told Rediff On the NeT that he had advised against dismissing the Kalyan Singh government.

In a letter sent to the President immediately after withdrawal of support to his government, Kalyan Singh asserted that his government enjoyed a clear majority despite the desertions of some MLAs belonging to the Loktantrik Congress and the Janata Dal (Pandey). He said he would prove his strength on the floor of the state assembly.

''It is respectfully submitted that my government enjoys a clear majority in the legislative assembly and if it is considered necessary, I am fully prepared to prove it on the floor of the House,'' the chief minister told the President. He said a similar request has been made to UP Governor Romesh Bhandari.

Soon after the crisis broke, Kalyan Singh was closetted with senior BJP leaders at his official residence. Sources at 5, Kalidas Marg, the chief minister's home, said state BJP chief Rajnath Singh and two senior ministers Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon were among the leaders who discussed the developments.

BJP leaders, who were taken aback by the developments, claimed the chief minister would not resign. In Delhi, BJP vice-president K L Sharma told reporters at his daily media briefing that "our people will manage the situation."

Kalyan Singh had won a vote of confidence, 222 to nil, last October in the 425-member house.

At a press conference at Raj Bhavan early this evening, Mayawati said her party -- which has a strength of 56 legislators following the defection of 13 BSP legislators in the assembly -- was ready to support any non-BJP, non-SP candidate for the chief ministership. She, however, clarified that the BSP would extend support to the new government from outside.

She said her party had extended support to the Loktantrik Congress leaders with the sole objective of toppling the Kalyan Singh government. She alleged that the only thing the BJP government had done was to institute probes against her.

Immediately after Mayawati's press conference, Mulayam Singh told journalists, "If Mayawati is saying so, then you can rest assured that the BJP government will fall by the evening."

After she received news of Kalyan Singh's dismissal, Mayawati said, "I decided to teach the BJP a lesson right from day one when they created dissent in my party and I have done it."

"Had I not been busy with the election, I would have ensured the fall of the BJP government even earlier," she added.

Mayawati was present along with her adversary Mulayam Singh and state Janata Dal president Ram Singh when Governor Bhandari administered the oath of office and secrecy at the Gandhi Sabhagar at Raj Bhavan.

The swearing-in took place soon after Vajpayee's announcement that he would stage a fast unto death at midnight on Sunday in protest against Kalyan Singh's dismissal. The outgoing chief minister, who was present at the senior BJP leader's press conference, tried to dissuade Vajpayee from undertaking the fast. However, Vajpayee said there was no question of retracing his step. State BJP chief Rajnath Singh said he would join Vajpayee in the fast.

'Kalyan Singh was doing nothing for the state'
'The governor did not go by the rule book'

Constitutional lawyers attack Bhandari

'Kalyan Singh was adopting a Hitlerian attitude in running the administration'
Two Loktantrik Congress ministers dispute Pal's claim
UP fall shows BJP the risk of coalitions
Kalyan Singh may have queered his pitch
The UP Assembly

The UP Crisis

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