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Kalyan flies into Atal arms

New Delhi, Feb. 3: The BJP pulled off the “homecoming” of its prodigal son Kalyan Singh to much fan fare today, giving itself a much-needed fillip in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the elections.

Kalyan was escorted to the capital on a special flight by BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who had a big hand in convincing Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the political wisdom of taking him back.

Mahajan was accompanied by Kalyan’s buddies Dinanath Mishra and Balbir Punj, who did the spadework for what is being billed a “political coup”. Both are Rajya Sabha MPs.

Announcing the “homecoming” in a packed news conference, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu said Kalyan would lead the party in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha campaign. But asked if Kalyan would get a party organisation post, he said: “Let’s wait for the future.”

Post or no, it was obvious Kalyan’s return had fired up the BJP headquarters and the Uttar Pradesh MPs and cadre who had come down for the occasion. As he walked into the news conference with Naidu, Mahajan and other leaders, there was thunderous applause.

When Kalyan declared he had merged his four-year Rashtriya Kranti Party into the BJP and had pulled out of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government, the din grew louder.

But it was evident that not all shared the enthusiasm. Union agriculture minister Rajnath Singh, who had been in Kalyan’s shadow for decades and come into his own only after he quit the BJP, surfaced only when the meet was midway.

Sources said the Delhi bosses had told Rajnath to show up to project a facade of unity and reinforce the message sent out by Kalyan’s return.

For his part, Kalyan was a picture of humility. He lavished praise on Prime Minister Vajpayee and begged “forgiveness” for whatever “wrongs I may have committed wilfully or unwittingly”.

Asked why he took four years to return, he said: “… Maybe my homecoming was destined to take place today at this hour.

“I am very happy because I have come back to my parivar… I will surrender myself to the leadership of Vajpayee, Advani and Naidu. I will give up my life to see the BJP emerge as the number one party in UP….”

Vajpayee, he said, “had always been our leader, is and will remain our leader”. Asked what happened to the acrimony of 1999, he replied: “The past has been buried in a pit so deep that it can never be dug out again. I have come to the party at a decisive moment when it has to fight a big battle.”

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