New Delhi: Fissures in the Gujarat BJP showed up in full measure on Monday when the party cracked the whip on Narendra Modi's detractors and suspended five of them for ‘anti-party activities’.
The five MLAs are suspected to have cross-voted in favour of UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil during the Presidential election on Thursday.
It’s the first big blow to the party in Modi-land. While dissidence was brewing in the party for sometime now, it’s the first time that party President Rajnath Singh has come down heavily on the rebels with an iron hand.
The party said the suspension had nothing to do with the Presidential polls though it was clear that the cross-voting in the presidential poll precipitated the action.
"The suspension of the five Gujarat MLAs has nothing to do with cross-voting in the presidential election," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said in New Delhi. “They have been suspended for breach of discipline,” another party leader said.
The five MLAs are Dhirubhai Gajera, Bapubhai Unghad, Balubhai Tanti, Bordhan Jhadpiya and Bechar Bhai Badani. Dhirubhai Gajera was one of the most vocal party leaders in criticising Modi ahead of the presidential election.
Altogether seven BJP MLAs from Gujarat had either not voted for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat or cast invalid votes in the Presidential election.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, there are 130 BJP members, 48 Congress members, two JD (U) members and two Independents.
However, Shekhawat secured only 123 votes, while Pratibha Patil bagged 57. Two votes were held invalid.
Two Independents had declared support to Patil and three BJP MLAs, too, had made their intentions clear about voting for the UPA nominee.
Before the Presidential election, the BJP dissidents had claimed that at least 15 BJP members would vote for Patil.
There were reports that at least four of dissident BJP MLAs — Dhiru Gajera, Bechar Badhani, Balu Tanti and Ramila Desai — had admitted that they had voted for Patil.
On the other side, BJP too had hoped that a few Congress MLAs might vote for Shekhawat.
Under pressure to act to rein in rebellion in Gujarat ahead of the Assembly elections there, the BJP chief recently appointed party General Secretary Arun Jaitley as the overall in-charge of the party election management in the state.