Bhopal: In an action against “rebel members”, the BJP Saturday expelled 35 leaders from its Madhya Pradesh unit for a period of six years, accusing them of anti-party activities.
The action came after these leaders either joined the poll fray against the official candidate of the party for the assembly elections scheduled to be held this month in MP or extended support to opposition parties.
The expulsion comes after the end of the last day for withdrawal of nominations, with the BJP using the interim period to attempt and persuade those who had left the party to return to its fold.
BJP’s action comes in the footsteps of the Congress removing 39 leaders in the state, including six MLAs, for “carrying out anti-party activities”.
The list of leaders removed by the BJP includes Rustam Singh, former MLA from Morena, K.K. Shrivastava, former MLA from Tikamgarh, Harshvardhan Chouhan, son of former state BJP president Nandkumar Chouhan, Kedarnath Shukla, sitting MLA from Sidhi, among others.
Most of the leaders belong to the Bundelkhand, Gwalior-Chambal, Malwa-Nimar and Vindhya regions of Madhya Pradesh.
Former police officer and BJP’s health minister in MP, Rustam Singh, had lost to Congress’s Raghuraj Singh Kansana from Morena in 2018. Subsequently, Kansana, a Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalist, switched over to the BJP in 2020 and was fielded for the Morena bypoll that year, which he lost to Congress’s Rakesh Mawai.
Rustam Singh was hoping to get a ticket from Morena in 2023, but was in for a rude shock when the BJP once again reposed faith in Kansana. Aggrieved, he joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) last month along with his son Rakesh Singh, and the party has fielded his son from the constituency now.
Harshvardhan Chouhan was seeking a ticket from the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat in the 2021 bypolls, but the BJP instead put their faith in Gyaneswar Patil, who won the seat. Harshvardhan is now contesting as an independent from Burhanpur assembly seat.
Another BJP leader, former MLA from Chachoura seat, Mamta Meena, joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) this September after she was denied a ticket by the BJP from the constituency. She is now contesting as an AAP candidate.
Three-time Sidhi MLA Kedarnath Shukla was denied a ticket from the seat this time, with sitting MP Sidhi Riti Pathak contesting from there. Shukla is now contesting the election from the seat as an independent candidate.
Late last month, Union home minister Amit Shah had embarked on a three-day tour of the poll-bound state and tried to pacify several rebel leaders, urging them to work for the BJP in the upcoming polls, party sources told ThePrint.
Shah had met Dheeraj Pateria, who was demanding a ticket from Jabalpur North, and Mangawan MLA Panchu Lal Prajapati and Teonthar MLA Shyamlal Dwivedi, who have been denied tickets this time for the upcoming polls, the sources added.
All these leaders are believed to have put their weight behind the BJP following their meeting with Shah and their names do not feature in the list of those expelled from the party.
While Shah is said to have managed to pacify crucial leaders who were heading to contest as independents in several important seats, many others refused to withdraw their nominations.
According to party sources, after Shah’s visit, Union ministers Bhupendra Yadav and Ashwini Vaishnaw were tasked with ensuring that the rebels contesting as independents withdraw their nominations. But after the last date to withdraw the nominations passed on 2 November, the BJP expelled the rebels.
A BJP leader told ThePrint that as part of the strategy, the election in MP had been taken over by the central leadership, with resources and candidates being decided by the high command.
“It is like the BJP is going through a leadership crisis when it comes to pacifying the rebels. It is often that local leaders are more effective in placating the agitated leaders. But many senior leaders are contesting elections themselves on the seats which the BJP lost in 2018. This is also a strategy of the central leadership. It remains to be seen if this will pay dividends. It will only be clear once the results are declared,” said the leader, not wishing to be named.
A BJP spokesperson meanwhile dismissed the idea that the expelled leaders could hurt the prospects of the party in the elections.
“These people were removed as they are standing against the candidates fielded by the party. But they are unlikely to have any impact as many are contesting independently and without the backing of a party, they do not stand a chance as the BJP has its own voter-base in the state,” said spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai.
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‘Some get convinced, some don’t’
In the Congress, senior leaders Digivijaya Singh and Kamal Nath were said to have been successful in persuading several rebels, including Javier Meda, to back out of the fray, but others did not agree, leading to the party expelling 39 leaders.
Meda had contested as an independent from Jhabua in the 2018 state polls and cost the party the seat.
The expelled leaders are contesting elections either as independent candidates or on the ticket of the BSP, Samajwadi Party (SP) and AAP, the party said.
The leaders suspended by the Congress include Premchand Guddu and Antar Singh Darbar, who are contesting as independents from Alot and Dr Ambedkar Nagar-Mhow, respectively. While Guddu has been expelled, his daughter Reena Setia is contesting on a Congress ticket from Sanwer.
Speaking to The Print, Congress leader Kamal Nath said: “During election time, there are 4,000 people who feel they are winning candidates and should be given a ticket. You try to convince them, some get convinced, some don’t.”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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