The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Take-off trouble for George front

New Delhi, Nov. 17: Moves to launch a socialist front within the National Democratic Alliance and a third front by secular parties for next year’s Lok Sabha polls have run into roadblocks, thanks to the ambivalence of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Janata parivar leaders.

Defence minister George Fernandes, who is hoping to form a socialist platform within the ruling coalition, is trying hard to convince the DMK not to ally with the Congress. He is also trying to rope in Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress. These parties, the NDA convener fears, could walk over to the Congress camp, depending on the political situation.

Fernandes held talks with DMK chief M. Karunanidhi recently in Chennai. Sources said his main agenda was to advise the former Tamil Nadu chief minister on the perils of backing a Congress government in Delhi. Fernandes’ strident criticism of the Tamil Nadu Assembly’s arrest order against senior journalists of The Hindu and DMK mouthpiece Murasoli is also seen as a ploy to please Karunanidhi. But the DMK is playing its cards close to its chest.

While announcing the merger of his Samata Party with the Janata Dal (United) last month, Fernandes had said he was talking to all erstwhile Janata parivar members within the NDA to come under the Dal (U) banner. But parties like the Indian National Lok Dal, the Biju Janata Dal and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (Democratic) refused to give up their independent identity.

Reports said Mamata is willing to merge with the Dal (U) provided it adopts the Trinamul election symbol of “two leaves”. But Dal (U) sources said they would oppose any such proposal as the Dal (U), unlike Trinamul, has an all-India presence and its “arrow” symbol is popular in many states.

The move to rope in four BJD rebel MPs is also not making headway as one of them has been won over by Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik, making a split in the 10-member parliamentary party difficult.

RJD (D) leader and Union minister of state for social justice Nagmani and his two party colleagues who were willing to merge with the Dal (U) are also having second thoughts.

If the defence minister’s move is yet to take off, the third front has become a truncated front with major outfits like the Samajwadi Party refusing to join. Mulayam Singh’s party is charting an independent course.

The so-called truncated front now comprises the Janata Dal (Secular), led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and a few other splinter groups. They are together only in the Delhi poll fray and there is no third front in other states.

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