The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Merger pleases ally BJP

New Delhi, Oct. 31: The BJP believes that the Janata Dal (United)-Samata Party merger will benefit the National Democratic Alliance and not undermine the party’s bargaining position in relation to the Janata parivar.

“It will strengthen the coalition because it means one party less. It is always easier to deal with a big block rather than two small parties,” a top BJP source said.

The reasoning for the claim that a unified Dal (U) would not have the upper hand with the BJP on issues like seat-sharing in the Lok Sabha polls went thus: “They have realised we either sink or swim together. If they fight as separate entities, it is impossible to defeat the RJD-Congress combine in Bihar.”

BJP sources said the Dal (U)’s stakes were the highest in Bihar and, so, “if they squabbled over seats it is their leaders who will lose their seats. And what is the clout that a defeated George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar or Sharad Yadav (will) have'”

The reunity move was “blessed” by the Prime Minister, his deputy and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu. Sources said a day before the newly anointed Dal (U) president Fernandes formally announced the merger, he had a long meeting with Naidu, who then briefed Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Although the BJP was keen that the Dal (U) rope in other parties, the chances of the Indian National Lok Dal or the Biju Janata Dal joining the unified entity appeared dim. “These are strong regional forces that do not want their identities to get subsumed in a large party,” a source said.

The first major meeting to cobble together a “Third Front” will take place tomorrow at former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s home. “The first priority of this front would be to isolate (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi and, depending on what numbers the NDA gets, they could support a Vajpayee-led coalition. If we don’t get the numbers, then the possibility of a Third Front-led government, supported either by the BJP or the Congress, gets stronger,” a BJP source said.

The sources claimed that their party had a “stronger” chance of an arrangement with the prospective “Third Front” because “we have proved that we are more adept at accommodating the interests and aspirations of regional parties than the Congress, which is generally more rigid”.

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