The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Janata merger in rebel trouble

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The merger of the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United), scheduled to be formalised tomorrow, has run into trouble with two se- nior Dal (U) leaders opposing the move.

The rebels said the George Fernandes-Sharad Yadav-Nitish Kumar trio cannot “hijack” the party and decide on their own without convening a meeting of the national council or executive. “The top leaders of the two parties are engaged in this task as they feel a threat to their existence,” the Dal (U)’s Devendra Prasad Yadav said. “We have not been taken into confidence. This was not discussed at all within the party forum.”

Devendra Prasad, who is spearheading the rebellion in the Dal (U) parliamentary party with Karnataka MP Sashi Kumar, said a similar exercise by the two parties in 1999 before the elections had “flopped”. This time, too, he added, it would “come to naught”.

“The process has been undertaken by some top leaders overlooking the feelings, consent and views of party workers, which is totally unconstitutional and undemocratic,” he said.

Asked whether he would attend tomorrow’s meeting, the former Union minister said there was no question of it.

With the rebels out to derail the merger, sources said the very idea of reunification to avert splits in both outfits could actually see the parties breaking up. Devendra Prasad and Sashi Kumar are enough to split the six-member Dal (U) in the Lok Sabha. The sources said they might even get the support of one more member, Dinesh Yadav.

At the state level, too, there is opposition to the merger. Of the 12 Dal (U) legislators in Bihar, four had left earlier and of the remaining eight, three are opposing reunification and are planning to write to the Vidhan Sabha Speaker to pre-empt the move.

Expelled Samata members Brahmanand Mandal and Raghunath Jha are also mobilising support against the unification. They need two more members to split the 12-member parliamentary party. As their expulsion orders have not yet been submitted to the Speaker, they are still part of the Samata.

Sources said Devendra Prasad is in touch with the Samata rebels and has held talks with Mandal on evolving a common strategy.

Asked how they planned to stop the merger, Mandal refused to say anything more except that he is waiting for the official announcement tomorrow. “We do not know what is happening. We only come to know through the media, but we cannot go by press reports. When they announce, we will decide what to do next,” he said, accusing Fernandes and Nitish of treating the party as their pocket organisation.

If the rebels are plotting ways to scuttle the merger, the official camp is not sitting idle either. When signs of impending revolt became clear, Dal (U) president Sharad held talks with Samata leader Nitish.

Sources said Samata chief Fernandes, Sharad and Nitish are going ahead with the move and are hopeful of “persuading” some of the rebels to relent.

In Bihar, veterans in both parties are looking forward to the marriage of “dils” rather than the “dals”.

“We welcome the move. The integrated face of the Janata parivar will now put an end to the goonda raj in Bihar,” said Ganesh Yadav, the leader of the Dal (U) legislative party.

However, one worrying factor is the likely face-off between the state BJP and the Samata — both constituents of the Bihar unit of the National Democratic Alliance — over the post of leader of Opposition. Together, the Samata, which has 30 MLAs, and the Dal (U), which has eight, would have 38 members in the Assembly, as against 35 of the BJP. This could lead to the Samata claiming the post of Opposition leader now held by the BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi.

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