ATAL WELCOMES JANATA ?ASSET? INTO ALLIANCE 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Lucknow
  • Published 9.08.99
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Lucknow, Aug. 9 :     Extending a red carpet welcome to the reunified Janata parivar, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today said the Sharad Yadav faction would be an ??asset?? to the National Democratic Alliance. Kicking off the BJP?s campaign on his home turf, Vajpayee said it was up to his party?s ??alliance partners??, the Lok Shakti and the Samata Party, to decide if they, as constituents of the reunified Janata Dal, wanted to be part of the alliance. ??Talks are still on and let us see what comes of it,?? he said. This is the first time the Prime Minister has publicly spoken in favour of the Sharad Yadav-led faction joining the NDA. The BJP was wracked by divisions on the issue after its Karnataka unit threatened to revolt if the Dal group of J.H. Patel was invited to join the NDA. Though Vajpayee was believed to have engineered the entire move of getting Patel on board, home minister L.K. Advani had opposed it. Addressing a press meet after a rally at Hazrat Mahal Park, the Prime Minister denied that the polls will be a fight between ??two personalities??. ??I am not the only issue. There are other important issues that the people will vote for,?? he said. Signalling that the BJP, if elected to power, would be careful while shopping for allies in case of a hung Parliament, Vajpayee said: ??The government is running more smoothly after Jayalalitha?s exit. We have to be careful of who we choose as partners. We won?t repeat our mistakes.?? The Prime Minister also set at rest speculation about whether the BJP would use Kargil as its primary poll weapon, freely playing on patriotic sentiment as he waxed eloquent on the ?success? on the warfront. Vajpayee credited his government and himself with the victory. ?Today Kargil is free and we have no one but ourselves to thank. So have a smile of confidence rather than tears on your face,? he said at the rally. Vajpayee played out the entire Kargil story before the audience, which was surprisingly thin considering it was his maiden campaign rally in Lucknow. ?A young wife, a widow just after she becomes a bride, sees the body of her dead husband. People around her break into tears. She stops them, and says crying before a martyr is a sign of disrespect. These are the voices which give us strength,? he said. Criticising Pakistan for refusing to bury its dead soldiers, he said: ?Even a dead body has dignity. Pakistan did not have the courage to even give a decent burial to its soldiers. So our Muslim soldiers gave them a burial according to Muslim customs.? Ruling out talks with Islamabad unless it took steps to revive the ??atmosphere of trust??, Vajpayee said: ??What can we talk? Militants are still attacking us in Kashmir. Pakistan can?t expect us to talk with daggers drawn.? The rally, officially billed as one to commemorate martyrs of the Quit India movement, was exploited by the rival Kalyan Singh and Lalji Tandon factions to show off their strengths. While Tandon, who is in charge of the Lucknow Municipal Corporation which hosted the rally, claimed success, the turnout left several others red-faced. A dissident MLC alleged: ?Kalyan Singh has sabotaged the rally. There was no publicity. Can you expect such a poor show in the Prime Minister?s constituency??