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BJP has hard time keeping flock together

delhi Updated: Jul 14, 2007 15:19 IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying hard to gather votes for its presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat but seems to be having a hard time mobilising its own legislators.

With less than five days to go for the presidential election, the BJP is trying to drum up support for Vice President Shekhawat amongst parliamentarians and legislators outside the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fold.

Unfortunately, however, the response from its strongholds of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan has been at best tepid even though its top leadership including LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Arun Jaitley, M Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Manohar Joshi and Ananth Kumar are on the job in states ruled by the BJP and the NDA.

On July 8, Advani and Swaraj addressed a joint meeting in the Gujarat capital Gandhinagar. But about 30 MLAs and MPs kept away as a sign of protest against Chief Minister Narendra Modi, said party sources.

Swaraj explained it away by saying: "Only 26 MLAs stayed away. And 17 had informed earlier of their inability to attend on account of pending important work."

She dismissed the possibility of anti-Modi legislators keeping away from the presidential election and said former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who leads the anti-Modi camp, had said that he would be in New Delhi on July 17, two days before the polls when the NDA has scheduled a meeting of all its MPs and MLAs to count its numbers.

The next day, Advani went to Madhya Pradesh where again about 30 legislators and MPs stayed away from his meeting.

There are doubts about how many would turn up to vote in Rajasthan as well.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has taken a beating after the recent caste violence when Gujjars blockaded roads demanding they be included in the Scheduled Tribe category and many Gujjar legislators of the BJP have openly turned against her.

Party insiders said she was recently in New Delhi where she met BJP president Rajnath Singh and wondered loudly how many BJP MLAs would actually come for the July 17 meeting.