The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Front signal in skipped meet

New Delhi, July 20: Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda appears to entertain the hope of not only uniting the splintered Janata parivar but also forging a third front after next year’s general polls.

He excused himself from a meeting of Opposition leaders called by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi here this evening to discuss floor co-ordination during Parliament’s monsoon session, beginning tomorrow.

Observers interpret Gowda’s absence as his way of conveying the message that another third front option will be pursued in the run-up to the general elections and will be kept open even after the polls.

Gowda had said at a meeting here of the Janata Dal (Secular) that his party would maintain “equidistance” from both the BJP and the Congress soon after Sonia spoke of the desirability of an anti-BJP secular alliance under her party’s leadership. Her opinion came at the Congress’ Shimla brainstorming.

The former Prime Minister is said to have also broached the idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP front at a recent meeting with another former Prime Minister, Chandrashekhar.

Chandrashekhar attended the meeting of Opposition leaders today.

According to sources close to Gowda, who had attended the previous meeting of Opposition leaders at Sonia’s home, there were other “compelling reasons” for the former Prime Minister’s absence today.

“He is in the midst of bringing together all JD (Janata Dal) factions in Karnataka to take on the Congress headed by his friend-turned-foe, chief minister S.M. Krishna. So how can he be seen in the company of Sonia Gandhi'” asked a source.

For the record, Gowda cited his party’s meeting in Mumbai for the absence. Sources said he left Bangalore for Mumbai this morning and returned home in the evening.

Gowda is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow for the Parliament session.

Gowda’s friend and former Cabinet colleague, Ram Vilas Paswan, too, did not attend today’s meeting. Aides said a Lok Janshakti Party meeting had been called in Ahmedabad for today quite some time ago.

Another old Gowda friend, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, also stayed away. He is on a two-day tour of Gowda’s home state.

Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy, however, insisted that all three leaders had conveyed they would stand by the consensus decisions arrived at today.

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