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BJP veterans come in support of Kirti Azad who took on Jaitley

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New Delhi: A day after MP Kirti Azad was suspended from the BJP for taking on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in Delhi’s cricket body, four party veterans have made up their minds to intervene in the matter.

According to reports, the elders – LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar, and Yashwant Sinha – are likely meet Azad at Joshi’s residence on Thursday, and raise the issue in party forum instead of going public with their views.

BJP veterans, including former president L K Advani, met here on Thursday amid signs that a section of the party is not happy over the suspension of Azad.

Advani drove to the residence of another former president Murli Manohar Joshi and was closeted there with BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar, party insiders said.

Shanta Kumar, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, met the media but refused to reveal what was discussed.

“Yes, we met, we discussed things, we had tea. I can’t say more.”

But party sources with access to them said they felt that Azad’s suspension on Wednesday had sent out a wrong message since the cricketer-turned-politician had for years been campaigning against financial wrongdoing in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

“Some of them feel that action has been taken against a person who acted like a whistle-blower,” an informed source told IANS.

The veterans reportedly feel that the move against Azad, a three-time Lok Sabha member from Darbhanga in Bihar, would harm the party.

For eight years, Azad has been campaigning against alleged financial irregularities in the DDCA, which was headed by Jaitley for 13 long years until 2013. Jaitley says he has done no wrong.

The minister has sued Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders for suggesting that he was corrupt.

In a related development, more than 100 supporters of Azad, who was in the Indian cricket team that won the 1983 World Cup, staged a noisy protest outside the BJP headquarters here against his suspension.

Azad, suspended for “anti-party activities”, sought help from the party’s “Marg Darshak Mandal” which comprises of Advani, Joshi, the now ailing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

This was not an official meeting of the “Marg Darshak Mandal” but one of the veterans who also took a stand widely seen as critical of Modi’s and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s leadership after the party’s huge defeat in assembly polls in Bihar.

There was no official comment from the BJP on what Advani and others discussed. A BJP leader, Srikant Sharma, told the media that the party “respected the senior leaders”.

Advani, Joshi, Shanta Kumar and former finance minister Sinha are known to be unhappy with the working style of Shah, a confidant of Prime Minister Modi.

After the BJP’s Bihar setback, these party veterans took on Modi and Shah, demanding “a thorough review” of the debacle. They said the defeat showed the party had learnt nothing from its crushing defeat by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi in February.

The AAP and the Congress have both come out in support of Azad, son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad. Azad said on Wednesday that his suspension was “unfortunate” and that his fight was against corruption and not any individual.

(With inputs from agencies)

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

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“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

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The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

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Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)