Monday, November 29, 1999

In two states, BJP speaks two voices

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The elections to the Rajya Sabha has proved to be a troublesome affair for the BJP. While the selection of candidates has triggered a disquiet in the party - prompting its Rajasthan unit to even guard its MLAs to fend off poaching attempts - its strategy with regard to use of the surplus votes in Orissa and Karnataka has brought out the inconsistencies in its position.The party's central leadership has directed its Karnataka unit to support liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is fielded by the JD(S).The argument being given is that the BJP's strategy has always been to defeat the Congress, its opponent at the national-level. But in Orissa, the party has decided to back a Congress-supported candidate,Tara Ranjan Patnaik.The reason it seems has more to do with keeping its flock together than ideology. Sources said the party was under pressure from its MLAs and it had no choice but to support Patnaik, a moneybag. So for the record, the party said it wants to teach Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik a lesson for ditching the party on the eve of the 2009 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.But the decision to back Mallya has led to discontent among some of the BJP MLAs. Sources said even Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa was unhappy with the decision to support a candidate fielded by H D Deve Gowda. Here again, the party was on a sticky wicket given the vulnerability of some of its MLAs in the high-stake poll game involving money."The BJP has decided to defeat Congress candidates throughout the country," the party's Karnataka unit chief K S Eswarappa said on Wednesday after a meeting of the legislative party justifying the decision to back Mallya. The central leadership, however, sought to downplay the inconsistencies in its strategy in the elections to the Upper House.

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