Decks cleared for merger of Pawan faction into BJP

Dr Yogeshwar, others to join party today

Avtar Bhat

UDHAMPUR, Nov 17: Decks were cleared for merger of the faction led by Independent MLA from Udhampur and former Minister, Pawan Gupta in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joining of all five Independent Councilors led by Dr Yogeshwar Dutt Gupta, a prominent doctor of Udhampur and elder brother of Pawan Gupta, into BJP tomorrow.
According to sources, an agreement was reached between BJP senior leaders including Party general secretary (Org) Ashok Koul and former Deputy Chief Minister, and MLA Gandhi Nagar, Kavinder Gupta and Pawan Gupta at Udhampur in this regard today and all the decks were cleared for the joining of five Councilors owing allegiance to Pawan Gupta into BJP tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Dr Yogeshwar Dutt, who is a Councilor from Ward 12, has filed his nomination papers for the post of Chairman of the Udhampur Municipal Council (UMC) as BJP candidate today while Surinder Singh Khalsa of BJP and a Councilor from Ward 4, Udhampur has filed his papers for the post of vice chairman after the BJP and Pawan Gupta reached an agreement.
With the joining of hands by BJP and Pawan Gupta group their total strength will be 9 members in UMC which has total strength of 21 members and they will fall short of two members in getting the majority. However, sources said the BJP may manage the two independents to sail through.
Dr Yogheswar is facing challenge from Panthers Party Councilor from Ward No 2, Sunil Paroch who too has filed his nomination papers for the post of Chairman in UMC while Panthers Party backed Congress candidate, Preety Khajuria a Councilor from Ward No 1 Udhampur, has filed her papers for the post of vice chairperson.
The Panthers Party is the single largest party in UMC with six members, Pawan Gupta has five members followed by BJP which has four, Congress two while there are four Independent Councillors.
Sources said that Congress and Panthers combined strength is eight with short of three members while BJP and Pawan Gupta faction’s strength is nine and they need two more members to reach magic figure of 11. The four independents hold key in the election of Chairman and Vice Chairman and both BJP as well as Congress and Panthers will try their hard in roping them towards their sides, sources added.
Former Deputy Chief Minister and MLA Gandhi Nagar Kavinder Gupta, who along with BJP general secretary (Org) Ashok Koul were on a hectic tour of Udhampur today to strike the deal with Pawan Gupta have exuded confidence to touch the magic figure of 11. Gupta told Excelsior that he is confident that BJP will get the majority.
“I am confident that we will succeed in our efforts. This effort has been made to strengthen the party and tomorrow all five councilors from Pawan Gupta faction will join BJP at Udhampur”, he added.
Kavinder, however, said that Pawan will not join the BJP tomorrow as there are certain technicalities in it and in view of Anti Defection Law there is rider on his joining to any other party as he has been elected as an independent candidate.
It may be recalled that Pawan Gupta, a senior leader of BJP had resigned from the party after he was denied ticket in 2014 Assembly elections and contested as an independent candidate. He stunned every one after winning the Udhampur Assembly seat despite strong Modi wave and addressing of a rally by the PM in Udhampur to canvass for party candidate.
Later, he reached an agreement with BJP and joined the coalition but after over one year and death of former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Syed, he was dropped as a Minister in Mehbooba Mufti Government and was replaced by BJP MLA from Reasi, Ajay Nanda as some senior BJP leaders were opposed to his induction in the Ministry. This again distanced Pawan from the party.
Sources said that after the pulling out from Mehbooba Government to which BJP was an alliance partner in the middle of this year, the party gave a serious thought of brining Pawan back into its fold for strengthening it further. These efforts got further momentum after the result of ULB elections in Udhampur where BJP was relegated to third position.
Sources said that some senior leaders took personal interest in patch up with Pawan Gupta and earlier some rounds of talks were also held with him and his supporters by senior BJP leaders but they failed to cut ice after some local BJP leaders in Udhampur were opposed to the pact with Pawan and instead were for a tie up with Panthers Party. Sources said senior leadership turned down this contention and instead continued the negotiations with Pawan and after several rounds of talks between BJP leaders and Pawan Gupta, they reached the agreement today.