Ram rattles BJP

Legislators locked up to uphold his glory


Prasanna Mohanty | June 16, 2010

Ram Jethmalani’s candidature has so rattled the Bharatiya Janata Party that the party with a difference has holed up all its 79 legislators in Rajasthan in a five-star hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur—a practice so far reserved only for making or breaking a governments and not for winning a Rajya Sabha seat as is the case now. Worse, the party has the required numbers to ensure victory for its two candidates—Ram Jethmalani and V.P. Singh. It needs 80 first preferential votes in a house of 200, after the CPM declared to absent from voting, and it has 79 members of its own. Its ally, the JD(U), brings in another member.

It should have been a smooth affair but it isn’t because two key players in the state are not in the best of their moods. Vasundhara Raje is upset for being unceremoniously ousted as the Leader of Opposition by former president Rajnath Singh in spite of being the preferred choice. The post remains unoccupied to date—Ghanshyam Tiwari is only an “acting” Leader of Opposition.

The second key player is state president Arun Chaturvedi, who was himself an aspirant for the Rajya Sabha. Three of the last four party presidents-- Om Prakash, Ram Dass Agarwal and Lalit Chaturvedi--were rewarded with Rajya Sabha seats. He was been denied the honour after the Gujarat strongman, Narendra Modi, sprang a surprise and imposed Jethmalani’s candidature.

The trouble was compounded when industrialist and Congress leader Santosh Bagrodia jumped into the fray as an independent with the backing of his party. The official candidates remain Asq Ali Tak and Anand Sharma. The Congress has 33 extra first preferential votes—over 80 needed to elect Tak and Sharma—and thus, Bagrodia needs 7 more to get elected. That worried the BJP so much that former president Venkaiah Naidu air-dashed to Jaipur to lock-in the party legislators in a hotel.

Arun Chaturvedi has an interesting explanation though. He says the state is witnessing a voting for Rajya Sabha for the first time in 20 years or more—all candidates got elected “unopposed” since late 1980s-- and that there are many legislators who are not aware of the voting system. “There are technical issues that need to be explained to the legislators”, he says.

He may say what he will and there may not be any surprises in the voting which is scheduled for tomorrow, it cannot be denied that the Rajasthan unit of BJP is a state of disarray, requiring immediate attention.



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