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Veteran shield for merger

Patna, Nov. 10: Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav today inducted a veteran socialist leader in a bid to alienate the rebels in the “reunited” Janata Dal (United).

Welcoming Kushwaha leader Ashoke Verma at a party workers’ “reunion programme” here, the Union ministers vowed to strengthen a “jati toro, jamat joro (break caste barriers, integrate community)” campaign.

The organiser was the Lok Nirman Manch, a non-political, social reform outfit with which Verma is associated.

Railway minister Kumar and half-a-dozen leaders of the OBC Kushwaha community observed that the turnout was a virtual ratification of the decision of the Samata Party and the Dal (U) coming together.

Verma, from Paliganj in Patna, who has a large Kushwaha following, is believed to be working to broaden the caste base of the reunited party and fill the void left by the departure of community heavyweight Shakuni Chaudhary in 1999. “Leaders like Shakuni Chaudhary may be happy in the ministry, but Laloo Prasad Yadav never learnt to respect him,” said Bhawaniprasad Kushwaha, a Dal (U) MLA, formerly of the Samata.

Without naming them, Kumar criticised party rebels such as Raghunath Jha and Brahmanand Mandal, who are insisting on retaining the “Samata identity”. They believe the party will end up in “tatters” because of the merger.

Kumar said he knew some insiders were spreading misinformation through the media. “They are clever and know what makes news. But they would not succeed in their mission to malign the top leaders of the party,” he said. “We (Samata and Dal-U) have always belonged to one stream,” Kumar added.

Yadav, tipped for the post of Dal (U) parliamentary board chairman, said the separation of 1999 was a “mistake”. “But one who admits mistakes gets closer to God, the Christians believe, and by admitting the flaw on our part, I would be closer to the people who are gods in politics”, he said.

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