Thursday, April 05, 2012

BJP chooses Heptullah over Ahluwalia

The exit of the vocal deputy leader from RS remains a mystery

New Delhi: The BJP it seems had an unenviable choice to make between two former Congress members for the Rajya Sabha seat from Madhya Pradesh – S.S.Ahluwalia, who belonged to the infamous 'shouting brigade' as vocal Congress backbencher in the early 1990s and joined the BJP in the late 1990s, and Najma Heptullah, who moved to the BJP from Congress in 2004. Heptullah prevailed. Heptullah was in Rajya Sabha for four terms as a Congress Party nominee but from Maharashtra though her parents were from Bhopal.

A senior BJP leader speaking on condition of anonymity admitted that had the party wanted, it could have Ahluwalia re-elected to the RS from MP. And he felt that Ahluwalia, who has been deputy leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, was of greater value to the party than Heptullah because he was a vocal member and that there is not much that she brought to the table. The senior leader was willing to speculate that even if BJP wants to push Heptullah as a vice-presidential candidate, the Congress would oppose it and the move would fall through.

The exit of Ahluwalia remains intriguing, and no convincing explanation has been offered so far by the party leaders. The simplest one was that the party did not have enough numbers in Jharkhand and therefore it could not field Ahluwalia from there. It was this logic of lack of numbers that led the party astray into supporting the independent candidate, Anshuman Mishra, the controversial London-based businessman.

The BJP's central command decided not to support Mishra because of the claims that Mishra made of his equations with the top BJP leadsers, and the party's 18 votes in the Jharkhand's assembly went to a JMM candidate. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that the BJP MLAs gave only their first preference votes and did not exercise their second preference.

If the BJP was keen, it could have negotiated with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) into pushing Ahluwalia's candidacy with a little help from the indepedents. But many BJP leaders do not want to be seen as getting into any understanding in Jharkhand because it is seen as a no-holds barred horsetrading venue when it comes to the question of a Rajya Sabha seat.

Ahluwalia could not be brought from Bihar, something he would have preferred because he is from Patna, but the party had to accommodate Ravi Shankar Prasad an insider compared to Ahluwalia. There was no hint as yet that efforts would be to bring back Ahluwalia from some other state. For the moment, it is the end of the road for Ahluwalia. He must be wondering as to why the party did not give that little push to keep him in the RS where he served the party with such clamour and effect.

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