The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal lifts Mulayam affair veil
- Tandon by side, PM files nomination in Lucknow

Lucknow, April 15: If there was any doubt that the BJP and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party have cut a deal on a post-poll alliance, it was all but set at rest by the Prime Minister and another senior BJP leader.

In an interview to a Hindi news channel, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said: “Ideologically, the Samajwadi Party is quite close (to the BJP).”

Given the history of their relationship, it would appear a strange comment to make. As Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mulayam Singh had ordered police to open fire on kar sevaks headed to Ayodhya in 1989.

Vajpayee, of course, spoke of an ideology that even the Congress would perhaps share. “We’ll stress on nationalism and democracy. Those parties that have the same commitment towards these issues, it would be easier for us to work with them.”

Murli Manohar Joshi, another top BJP leader, also gave a similar hint. “No one is untouchable,” he said.

Mulayam Singh’s siding with the BJP in the hour of crisis sparked by the Lucknow killer stampede was an indication of their growing — if clandestine — ties.

The tragedy hung over Vajpayee as he filed his nomination here today seeking another five years “to complete unfulfilled tasks”.

“I am united in grief with them. The government will, of course, pay compensation,” he said about the victims and their families.

“I was myself so upset that I felt like dying,” Vajpayee added as the BJP leader at the centre of the tragedy, Lalji Tandon, sat next to him at a small rally the Prime Minister addressed after filing his nomination at 12.30 pm.

If Tandon’s unexpected presence was evidence of Vajpayee standing by his constituency-minder, this is no guarantee that he would not be dropped as the Prime Minister’s chief poll agent. It is possible that after the rehabilitation, a quiet burial would follow.

The stampede and his retirement from politics returned frequently in Vajpayee’s speech.

“There should be a limit to fighting elections. This time, my friends and our allies did not agree to it (his retirement). I am a party worker and I have to abide by the wishes of the party,” he said.

The claimed reluctance to contest does not, however, mean he likes others to raise the question of his retirement. “When someone asks me why I am contesting polls at this age, I feel hurt.”

Because, he added, “I came to politics with a great mission” to serve the nation.

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