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Kalyan, Atal spring courtesy call surprise

Lucknow, Dec. 24: Kalyan Singh, who has waged a no-holds-barred war against the BJP and the Prime Minister, sprang a surprise this evening by turning up at a BJP workers’ meeting to greet Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, who had been expelled from the BJP in November 1999, said “no political motive should be attached” to his meeting Vajpayee for the first time in four years. He said he had dropped in to wish the Prime Minister at the function, organised on the eve of his birthday.

But the glow on Kalyan’s face and the euphoria among BJP leaders, who had gathered at former minister Lalji Tandon’s residence for the occasion suggested otherwise.

“The stage for the return of the native is set. The BJP badly needs him and he is also feeling uncomfortable in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s company,” a senior party functionary said.

He confirmed that some senior central party leaders have been in touch with Kalyan, whose Rashtriya Kranti Party is part of the Mulayam Singh-led coalition in Uttar Pradesh.

Speculation about Kalyan’s return to the BJP fold gained ground when he was absent from yesterday’s function marking Chaudhary Charan Singh’s birth anniversary. Mulayam Singh shared the stage at that function with Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh.

The former chief minister was annoyed at the defeat of a party candidate in his home turf of Aligarh in the recent legislative council elections — a Samajwadi Party rebel snatched the seat with Ajit’s open support. Kalyan took the defeat as a systematic attempt to marginalise him in the coalition government.

Kalyan’s surprise appearance electrified proceedings at Tandon’s residence where the Vajpayee birthday-eve celebrations had been organised. A beaming Kalyan came forward to greet Vajpayee and said: “Tum jiyo hazaron saal aur saal ke din hon pachas hazaar (May you live a thousand years, with each year comprising 50,000 days).” He stayed by the Prime Minister’s side throughout the evening, sparking speculation that a major shift in state politics is imminent.

Vajpayee had been the principal target of Kalyan’s anti-BJP campaign during last year’s Assembly elections. The former chief minister had then described the Prime Minister as “a tired and retired leader”. The development gave new meaning to Vajpayee’s visit here in which he flagged off five new trains.

Plane diverted

Heavy fog caused Vajpayee’s Delhi-bound Air Force plane to land in Jaipur tonight, forcing him to continue to the capital by road. Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia rushed to Jaipur airport to receive him and accompanied him to Delhi.

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