The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pawar push for Janata merger

Bangalore, Jan. 7: At least one participant in the five-day Indian Science Congress, that came to a close today, has left with renewed political hopes alongside the others’ expectations of scientific progress.

Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, who attended the meet as the National Disaster Management Committee vice-chairman, used the opportunity to help build greater cooperation among non-Congress and non-BJP political forces.

Pawar’s main targets were the various Janata Dal factions in Karnataka. He arrived here on on January 1 — the science congress started two days later —and used the time to interact with several Janata Dal(S) and Janata Dal(U) leaders.

Pawar met Dal (S) president H.D. Deve Gowda, S.R. Bommai, the president-designate of the All India Janata Dal that will be launched soon, P.G.R. Sindhia, leader of the Dal (U) in the Karnataka Assembly, Dal (U) state president C. Byre Gowda and veteran Janata parivar leader V.S. Krishna Iyer.

According to Janata Dal sources, Pawar kept emphasising that the time had come to consolidate the forces of the Third Front.

Sindhia, one of the leaders who had wide discussions with the former Maharashtra chief minister, said Pawar’s initiative has acquired urgency after the Gujarat poll.

“Pawar pointed out that the country is passing through a critical period, with the Sangh Parivar and the BJP aggressively pursuing the (Hindutva) agenda in the belief it enabled the party to win in Gujarat.... Pawar felt this would cause grievous harm to the country’s socio-political fabric,” he said.

According to Sindhia, Pawar apparently believes the Congress strategy of pursuing “soft Hindutva” was a major factor for the BJP’s emphatic win.

Pawar, Sindhia said, wants to assertively push a clear centrist line that would not compromise on secularism. The Nationalist Congress Party chief believes the unity of centrist, secular forces, which want to strike out independent of the Congress, should be actively forged now.

With this objective in mind, Pawar has reportedly pleaded for a quick merger of the two Janata Dal factions in Karnataka.

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