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BJP’s last-ditch Operation Salvage on

MP HC Chavan with broken bones airlifted; party stops short of summoning another with lung cancer, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2008 11:20 IST
Shekhar Iyer

An unusual image landed in the mobile phone of Deepak Chopra, aide to Leader of the Opposition LK Advani, on Monday: an X-ray of the broken bones of HC Chavan, BJP Member of Parliament from Maharashtra.

<b1>Chavan, bed-ridden after a road accident, was anxious to get proper care when he landed in Delhi in an air ambulance chartered by the BJP. In a last-ditch attempt to win the trust vote, the party insisted that Chavan and two other sick MPs, actor Dharmendra and MC Kanodia, be present in Parliament on Tuesday.

"I have faith I am going for a good cause," said Chavan, 51, after visiting a Sai Baba temple near Nashik on a stretcher, accompanied by two doctors and his personal physician.

But even the managers of BJP’s "Operation Salvage" — launched to hold on to its flock of MPs and counter the adroit positioning by UP Chief Minister Mayawati as a future Prime Minister — could not bring themselves to insist on the presence of Chikmagalur MP Srikanthappa, who is said to be stricken with lung cancer.

By late Monday night, Advani, assisted by Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitely had spoken to more than a dozen "vulnerable" MPs, many of who trooped into Advani’s room in Parliament House to pledge their loyalty.

Barring Gujarat’s Somabhai Patel who was clear he would vote for the UPA, the other MPs told the BJP leaders they would not stray.

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South Dharwad MP Manjunath Channappa, who had asked permission to be absent, also showed up to dispel doubts about his loyalty.

The BJP doubled its efforts after its ally, Janata Dal (United) could not guarantee tickets for more than two of seven rebel RJD MPs who were willing to switch.

Ally Shiv Sena’s Tukaram Renge-Patil remained incommunicado despite efforts by Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray.

To counter the Congress taunt, earlier in the day in Parliament, that the BJP would avoid the trust vote to hide desertions in its ranks, Advani asked BJP's Sushma Swaraj to talk to the media.

"A desperate government is resorting to disinformation for its survival when the BJP is going all out to defeat it on the floor of the House," she said. "By (saying we are) even airlifting sick MPs like Dharmendra, who has arrived all the way from Los Angeles, despite a knee surgery."

(With Zeeshan Shaikh, Sweta Ramanujan and Rajendra Aklekar in Mumbai)