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JD(U) elects Yadav amid George boycott

Press Trust Of India  |  Patna 

was today elected president of the Janata Dal(U) by defeating incumbent in a poll marred by controversy following last-minute removal of the returning officer and boycott by Fernandes and state party units loyal to him.
Yadav, the party's central parliamentary board chairman, polled 413 votes against Fernandes' 25 as ten votes were declared invalid and 123 voters did not exercise their franchise, Subhash Srivastava, the returning officer, announced amid jubiliation by Yadav's supporters.
Srivastava was appointed returning officer after Fernandes loyalist Aneel Hedge was removed by the national executive minutes before the national council members began voting to elect a new president.
The contest took place after all attempts by senior party leaders including Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who backed Yadav, to bring about a rapprochement between the two party stalwarts.
Though Fernandes, who arrived here from New Delhi this morning, met Nitish at his residence, a compromise could not be reached.
Yadav, according to insiders, insisted on an election and refused to even meet Fernandes. He rejected an offer by the Fernandes camp to allow the veteran leader to get re-elected as a "face-saver" and then resign a couple of months later on health grounds.
The polling by the newly elected national council started six hours behind schedule. A hurriedly called meeting of the national executive decided to remove Hegde who had gone "missing" after shooting off a letter to Yadav.
In the letter, Hegde expressed his inability to hold the poll as a majority of the state units had not sent the list of active members to the central office. He suggested that the poll be postponed for three months.
The national executive, according to Srivastava, felt that Hegde had indulged in "constitutional impropriety" by seeking to postpone the election despite ratifying the electoral college earlier.
"The electoral college was ratified by Hegde before the election process was set in motion. Once it was set in motion, it was beyond his authority to stop it and so the executive decided to replace him," Srivastava said.
The elections saw supporters of the rival candidates trading charges, with those backing Yadav alleging that Hegde wanted to postpone the poll on "flimsy" grounds after sensing that Fernandes faced defeat.
Fernandes loyalists thought otherwise and contested the legality of Hegde's removal "midway" through the election and alleged it was done to "manipulate" the outcome in Yadav's favour.
National council members from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Uttaranchal, loyal to Fernandes, claimed to have boycotted the election. Praveen Sinhji Jadeja, president of the Gujarat unit, said all 54 council members from the state stayed away from the poll.
"The elections have been officially postponed. If it were not so fernandes, who is a candidate, would have been present here and so we are leaving," he said.

First Published: Wed, April 12 2006. 00:00 IST