BJP suspends 7 MLAs, issues show cause notices Jugal replaces Gupta as Legislature Party leader20 April 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: In a bold decision, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today suspended its seven MLAs from the party including Legislature Party leader in Assembly, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, a former Union Minister, and served them with show cause notices to explain reasons for indulging in cross-voting in favour of ruling coalition partners-National Conference and Congress (I) in April 13 Legislative Council elections for six seats, five of which were won by the Alliance. The BJP has referred the matter of cross voting by the MLAs to a specially constituted Disciplinary Committee headed by BJP national general secretary, O P Kohli, who has been asked by party president Nitin Gadkari to co-opt other members in the panel. Mr Kohli is also BJP’s Incharge for Jammu and Kashmir. The Disciplinary Committee would submit its report to Mr Gadkari for initiating further action against the suspended legislators. The suspended legislators besides Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, MLA Jammu West, included Jagdish Sapolia, MLA Basohli, Master Lal Chand, MLA Bani, Prof Gharu Ram, MLA RS Pura, Baldev Sharma, MLA Reasi, Durga Dass, MLA Hiranagar and Bharat Bushan, MLA Domana. The party high command has appointed Jugal Kishore, MLA Nagrota as acting BJP Legislature Party leader. Besides Mr Kishore, BJP City East MLA Ashok Khajuria, Sham Choudhary, MLA Suchetgarh and Choudhary Sukhnandan, MLA Marh have been cleared of the charges of cross voting by the party high command. A decision on suspension of seven party MLAs and serving them with a show cause notice before initiating further disciplinary action against them after their reply was announced by BJP Parliamentary Board Secretary Ananth Kumar at a press conference at party headquarters in New Delhi this evening. Party sources said the BJP Parliamentary Board headed by Nitin Gadkari met this morning in New Delhi and discussed the report submitted by three senior party leaders including Jagat Prakash Nadda and O P Kohli, both national general secretaries and R P Singh, who had visited Jammu a day after the cross-voting. The preliminary report submitted by three senior leaders clearly indicated that these seven MLAs had cross-voted for ruling National Conference and Congress candidates. Party sources said the phone records of these MLAs were also checked which further proved the charges. 'The decision to suspend seven MLAs was taken by BJP’s Central leadership depending upon its inputs and assessment’’, J&K BJP’s chief spokesman and national executive member of the party, Dr Jitendera Singh said on phone from New Delhi. Sources said the suspension of Prof Gupta, who had been the Minister of Defence in Atal Behari Vajpayee led NDA Government in New Delhi and a three time Member of Parliament from Udhampur-Doda constituency was a clear indication by the BJP that they were in no mood to tolerate indiscipline in the party. The BJP Central leadership has come to the conclusion that money had been paid to its MLAs to buy them up, sources said and added that the Central leadership also found that Legislature Party leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta had failed to accomplish the task to maintain discipline in the party as he is himself one of the rebels. Ananth Kumar said, 'the party has taken a very serious view of the cross voting by its MLAs in the Legislative Council elections.... After deliberating over the issue, the Board decided that action should be taken for this indiscipline.' He insisted that the party had suspended these MLAs forthwith and further action is pending against them. 'The party is issuing a show cause notice as to why they should not be expelled from the party for six years. They have to reply within a week,' Mr Kumar said. Jugal Kishore Sharma, who was Deputy Legislature Party leader and had immediately resigned from the post after cross voting, has been appointed as Acting Leader of the BJP Legislature Party, Mr Kumar announced. Mr Sharma is a second time MLA from Nagrota Assembly constituency where he had defeated NC candidate Ajatshatru Singh twice. He confirmed that the decision was taken on the basis of a report filed by BJP Jammu and Kashmir in-charge O P Kohli, co-incharge R P Singh and general secretary J P Nadda. The preliminary report submitted by them 'clearly indicated' that these seven MLAs had cross-voted in favour of BJP’s arch rivals-National Conference and Congress (I) leading to Alliance victory on five seats. One of the seats had gone to the PDP. BJP president Nitin Gadkari had met all 11 BJP MLAs collectively as well as individually yesterday. He also met senior office bearers of the BJP from J&K including State party president Shamsher Singh Manhas. Yesterday, Mr Gadkari had deferred action against the MLAs yesterday and left it to the Parliamentary Board of the BJP, the highest decision making body of the party. The Parliamentary Board headed by Mr Gadkari met this morning and decided to quell indiscipline in State unit of the party firmly by suspending seven party legislators. Further action would be taken against them after the receipt of their replies to the show cause notice within a week. Asked about the basis on which the party reached the conclusion that these were the seven who had voted against the party in the secret ballot, Ananth Kumar said, 'The Parliamentary Board had only one point of discussion that there was a decided candidate and whip was issued to vote for the official candidate.' However, the BJP Parliamentary Board has decided not to refer resignation of seven MLAs, addressed to Speaker Legislative Assembly immediately. The BJP had taken resignation letters, duly signed by all MLAs a day after the cross voting. The resignation letters are lying with Mr Gadkari. Sources didn’t rule out the possibility of resignation letters of seven MLAs being submitted to the Speaker for acceptance after replies to show cause notices and the report of the Disciplinary Committee. According to sources, excepting Prof Gupta, all other 10 MLAs of the BJP have returned to Jammu. Prof Gupta continued to camp in New Delhi. Sources said the BJP national leadership was utilizing its sources among the Intelligence agencies to find out how much cash had flown to the party’s seven MLAs to make them cross vote for NC and Congress candidates. The BJP was worried that its image had taken a back seat with the action of party MLAs as the party had made the stopping of Anurag Thakur (BJYM chief) led 'Ekta Yatra’ to Srinagar by NC and Congress a major issue at the national level. BJP’s veteran leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were detained at Jammu Airport and prevented from marching to Srinagar to join flag hoisting ceremony by NC and Congress Government for whom the seven MLAs voted and made their candidates victorious. It may be mentioned that all 11 MLAs of the BJP have filed a case in the court against the NC-Congress Government for preventing them from flying to Srinagar. Prof Chaman Lal Gupta had frequently been castigating the Government in the Assembly for not appointing the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and chairman of the State Accountability Commission while Jagdish Raj Sapolia had displayed a CD in the Assembly in budget session alleging corruption by an ARTO. He had also handed over Rs 20,000 of alleged bribe to the Speaker. The Assembly had remained stalled for one and a half day following Master Lal Chand’s charge that Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education R K Jerath had misbehaved with them. The Government attached Mr Jerath. Another suspended BJP MLA Baldev Sharma had repeatedly been raking up alleged irregularities in Katra Municipality. The cross voting by these MLAs came to light when BJP's candidate for the Upper House Ranjit Singh got only four votes in the April 13 polls while seven others voted for NC and Congress taking their candidates’ tally to 30 each in Jammu as against 26 each votes taken by two NC candidates for Kashmir seats. Sources said the BJP leadership is torn between the two options of quelling indiscipline and thus setting an example or keeping its flock together in the State. Though the Assembly elections in the State are three and a half years away, the party leadership felt that action against the MLAs has been necessitated as it had cornered the Congress in New Delhi on corruption and Lok Pal bill. The BJP national leadership felt that if seven MLAs were expelled, they would try to form a separate group in the Assembly to survive disqualification. If they are disqualified, the BJP leadership observed that it wouldn’t be easy for the party to win the Assembly seats again as the party had got highest number of 11 seats in 2008 due to Amarnath land agitation. 'But the resentment among the people against this cross-voting by our MLAs is immense. People are very angry and some strong action will have to be taken,' a senior national BJP leader, who had visited J&K after the cross voting, said. He added that some of the suspended MLAs had NC and Congress background and they had created indiscipline in the party and also involved others. The BJP leader said the suspension of seven MLAs was a rare action taken by the BJP not only in J&K but also across the country to curb indiscipline and prevent bribing of the party MLAs.