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|November 12, 1998||
Delhi murder puts BJP, Samata Party ties in a tizzy
George Iype in New Delhi
The murder of a Samata Party candidate in the capital has upset relations between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's trusted coalition partner, the SP chief, Defence Minister George Fernandes.
Fernandes, along with party colleague, Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, met the prime minister on Thursday and demanded action against local BJP leaders who are alleged to be behind the killing of SP candidate Ved Singh from the Nangloi Jat assembly constituency.
Unidentified assailants gunned down Singh on Wednesday, barely 300 metres from his home in Mundka village in Delhi's Outer Delhi parliamentary constituency.
SP leaders said Singh's candidature from Nangloi was opposed by Jat supporters of former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma. "We feel our candidate has been killed by the criminal elements within the Delhi BJP. It was a political murder," SP general secretary Jaya Jaitly told Rediff On The NeT.
According to her, the SP leadership had sought seat adjustments with the BJP in Delhi as "an extension of our coalition arrangement with the Vajpayee government at the Centre."
"But the BJP leadership rejected our proposal. We took it in our stride, but decided to field Singh against the BJP and Congress candidates because in democracy we have the right to fight elections," Jaitly said. "It is a shame that the law and order situation in the capital is worse than Bihar and Uttar Pradesh."
While the SP leaders have demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the incident, the killing has also brought into focus the deteriorating law and order situation in the capital on the eve of the assembly poll.
Fernandes and Kumar took up with Vajpayee the growing crime-rate in the capital and demanded the setting up of a special cell in the home ministry to monitor election-related violence in Delhi. Many believe the SP leaders' demand amounts to indirectly questioning Home Minister Lal Kishinchand Advani, who is directly in charge of the law and order situation in the capital.
While the prime minister has promised to institute an inquiry into the incident, the BJP leadership fears that the SP candidate's killing has the potential to strain the alliance between the BJP and the SP at the Centre. The Samajwadi Party, with 12 Lok Sabha members in Parliament, has been a dependable, uncomplaining ally of the Vajpayee coalition for the past seven months.
But what has further disturbed the BJP leadership is the infighting that the incident has triggered off among Delhi BJP leaders.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana, who has an influential following in the city, has indirectly attacked former chief minister Verma, holding him responsible for Singh's killing.
"Verma is instigating his Jat followers in Outer Delhi, and thereby bringing disrepute and bad image to the party on the eve of the election," a Khurana follower and member of the state legislative assembly told Rediff On The NeT.
He said Khurana has written to BJP president Kushabhau Thakre, asking him to expel from the party those supporters of Verma who were behind the crime.
But Verma refuted the allegations that his relatives were involved in the attack against the SP candidate. "I personally knew Ved Singh for many years. Those who accuse me and my followers of killing Singh want to settle political scores with us," the former chief minister told Rediff On The NeT.
In an effort to set the record straight, Verma met the prime minister, the home minister, the defence minister and the BJP president on Thursday to explain, what he says, "how a rivalry between local leaders resulted in Singh's death and how it has been turned against me as a political murder."
While the BJP has begun its electioneering in Delhi on shaky grounds, the Congress, led by its Delhi pradesh chief Shiela Dixit, is trying to cash in on the anti-BJP mood among voters.
In the 1993 assembly election, the BJP bagged 49 out of the 70 seats while the Congress secured 14, the Janata Dal four, and Independents three.
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