The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP plots secular strike on Cong

New Delhi, Oct. 9: The BJP is trying to get the Third Front revived as part of its electoral strategy to defeat its main rival, the Congress, in the coming Assembly polls and in the general elections next year.

But its efforts, made through its friends in the secular camp, have not borne fruit yet because the splinter parties are unable to work out a cohesive tie-up and the Left has become wary.

A truncated Third Front would suit the BJP as it would help divide the secular space and check the Congress graph.

Although former Third Front members such as the Telegu Desam Party, the DMK and the Indian National Lok Dal have learnt to coexist with the BJP, others such as the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party do not want to publicly embrace the ruling party as their eyes are on the minority votebank. But they are helping the BJP by trying to prop up a Third Front.

According to sources, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and P.A. Sangma, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and NDA convener George Fernandes have had discussions on evolving a common strategy.

NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar on Wednesday said his party would contest all 90 Assembly seats in Chhattisgarh. “The NCP has formed a front with LJP (Lok Janshakti Party), JD-S, National Akali Dal and SJP (Samajwadi Janata Party) to contest elections in Delhi and Rajasthan,” he added.

Talks are on with the Left as well, Anwar said. Pawar, he announced, would launch the party’s poll campaign from Jehangirpuri in Delhi on Friday.

After the BJP dumped Mayavati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, a pleased Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh had said he could support the party if it dropped from its agenda the contentious issues of Ayodhya, uniform civil code and Article 370.

Political circles interpreted his comments as his readiness to support the BJP at the Centre from outside, like the Desam.

The Uttar Pradesh developments, however, put major Left parties such as the CPM and the CPI on alert. Sources said they were treading cautiously after Mulayam Singh developed a “soft corner” for the BJP.

Although the Samajwadi chief weaned away legislators from the BSP, which split twice within one month, he spared the BJP. He also does not appear to be in a hurry to change the Assembly Speaker, who is a BJP member.

Among the former Third Front members who briefly honeymooned with the BJP, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP are keen to revive the front. They are backed by the NCP and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular).

Though these parties are unlikely to make a major dent, they can harm the Congress and the BJP in certain pockets, especially the former.

Solapur report

The Maharashtra Congress chief has asked for a report from 11 ministers and party office-bearers who were entrusted with the Solapur parliamentary bypoll campaign, a PTI report said.

AICC general secretary Vyalar Ravi clarified that the letters sent were not a “showcause notice or indictment”.

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