The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong explores BSP option

New Delhi, Sept. 22: With the Congress’ internal surveys predicting trouble in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party is understood to be exploring the possibilities of striking a tactical understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the Assembly polls later this year.

Sources said Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Ajit Jogi were in touch with BSP leader Mayavati. Jogi, known to be close to the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, is learnt to have spoken to her here yesterday.

Congress working committee members such as Arjun Singh and Motilal Vora, too, are said to have contacted Mayavati recently. Singh and Vora have a direct stake in the poll outcome as they are from these states.

Though the high command has left tie-ups to the chief ministers, it is said to be concerned about the party’s prospects in view of adverse assessments for the two states in its latest, post-monsoon survey. In the last Assembly elections, the BSP had polled over 10 per cent votes, with strong pockets in Bundelkhand and Malwa regions.

Digvijay and Jogi, however, may not openly acknowledge their initiative to knock on Mayavati’s door. Part of the reason, sources said, is that no formal tie-up between the parties may be on the cards.

A senior party functionary today attached considerable significance to Mayavati’s pointed attack on rival BJP at her Sunday rally in Bhopal. “Mayavati’s call to the voters to defeat the BJP in the Assembly polls can only help us,” the leader said.

Sources recalled how a tactical tie-up with the BSP in the 1998 polls in then undivided Madhya Pradesh had helped Digvijay record a surprise win. The BSP, they said, had fielded weak candidates in several keenly contested seats to help the Congress beat rival BJP.

Jogi may find it easier to forge a tacit understanding with Mayavati, unlike Digvijay, who will have some explaining to do. Sources said Mayavati was cut up with the Madhya Pradesh chief minister for snatching her MLAs to increase the Congress tally after she “helped” him win the 1998 polls.

The Congress leadership’s improving ties with the BSP became evident last week when party chief Sonia Gandhi rang up to enquire about her ailing BSP counterpart, Kanshi Ram. Mayavati praised Sonia in public for her gesture. The Congress has even decided not to join the Mulayam Singh Yadav government till after the Assembly polls.

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