Plagued with dissidence, the BJP on Thursday cracked the whip on 53 leaders who stood their ground and did not withdraw their candidature as independents on the last day of withdrawal of nomination on Wednesday.
Those expelled for six years include former ministers Ramkrishna Kusmaria and K L Agrawal, former Gwalior mayor Sameeksha Gupta, MLAs Rajkumar Mev and Narendra Singh Kushwah, and two former MLAs.
The BJP was able to persuade 178 others, who too had filed candidature as independents, and managed to withdraw by Wednesday.
Septuagenarian Kusmaria, a former agriculture minister and one of the star campaigners for the BJP, did not yield and refused to meet BJP vice-president Prabhat Jha. Jha told The Indian Express that he tried his best but did not succeed. He said most of the septuagenarians who rebelled had enjoyed power for long. Kusmaria has filed his nomination as independent from Patharia and Damoh; the latter seat is represented by finance minister Jayant Malaiyya.
Former minister K L Agrawal is contesting as independent from Bamori. Former BJP Yuva Morcha president Dheeraj Pateria is contesting from Jabalpur (central) and will take on health minister Sharad Jain. Former MLA Brahmanand Ratnakar will contest as independent from Berasia near Bhopal. Former forest minister Sartaj Singh joined the Congress and is a candidate from Hoshangabad.
BJP spokesperson Lokendra Parashar said the number of rebel party functionaries could exceed 60. He said the district units will expel them for six years for anti-party activities. Party sources said most of the rebels have no standing, but they were worried by the candidature of Kusmaria, Pateria and Gupta because they are challenging important functionaries and ministers.
The BJP succeeded in persuading former finance minister Raghavji to withdraw his nomination from Shamshabad in Vidisha district. The veteran had filed his nomination as an independent after the party denied a ticket to his daughter Jyoti Shah. Former MLA Jitendra Daga withdrew his nomination from Huzur.
A senior leader cited the example of former chief minister Uma Bharti, who was expelled and briefly floated her own party but had to return to the BJP, saying that other rebels had no future outside the BJP.
The Congress was also not free from dissidence but it had to deal with few rebels, mainly because the party had only 58 MLAs in the Assembly while the BJP had 165. The Opposition party succeeded in persuading a few prominent candidates to withdraw their independent candidature from seats in Bhopal.