Monday, November 29, 1999

RS polls: Jethmalani, Mallya``s fate to be decided tomorrow

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New Delhi, Jun 16 (PTI) A keen fight is on the cards in Rajasthan and Karnataka amid reports of division among BJP MLAs over the candidature of legal luminary Ram Jethmalani and liqour baron Vijay Mallya as the stage is set for elections to 18 Rajya Sabha seats in five states tomorrow. Union minister Anand Sharma, LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan, senior Congress Oscar Fernandes and former BJP chief M Venkaiah Naidu are among the candidates whose fate will be decided in tomorrow''s biennial polls. The BJP is getting jitters in Rajasthan where a section of its 79 MLAs are unhappy over the candidature of Jethmalani for his having defended Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and the party has herded its legislators in a hotel to avert poaching. The decision of CPI(M) to abstain from voting in Rajasthan seems to have improved the chances of two BJP candidates, who also include V P Singh, as an aspirant would now require 40 votes instead of earlier 41 to sail through. Under the circumstances, the BJP with its 79 members and one JD (U) MLA would not require vote from outside if all of them vote for Jethmalani and Singh. Besides, keeping its MLAs in the hotel, BJP has also issued a whip. The ruling Congress with its strength of 102 MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly has already ensured the victory of Anand Sharma, Commerce and Industry Minister, and Ashq Ali Tak and the party is keen to see industrialist-cum-politician Santosh Bagrodia sail through. Bagrodia, however, needs the support of independents and cross-voting by BJP MLAs. In Karnataka, BJP is divided on whether to support Mallya who is bidding for a second term as an independent supported by 27-member JD-S legislature group and also an independent Varthur Prakash and is banking on the backing of the ruling party''s surplus votes. Mallya needs 45 first preference votes for victory. It remains to be seen if the BJP Legislature Party opts for transferring second preference votes to Mallya in the wake of opposition by a section to allot him surplus first preference votes. On the other hand, the 74-member Congress Legislature party, which met under its leader Siddaramaiah, resolved to allot 45 first preference votes to Oscar Fernandes and the remaining 29 to its other candidate T V Maruthi who would also be getting the second preference votes of his party MLAs. The election will be a smooth affair for Naidu,re-nominated by BJP for the third successive term from Karnataka, Ayanur Manjunath and Oscar Fernandes. .

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