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Ajit may merge RLD with Congress for Cabinet berth
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | July 03, 2004 20:06 IST
With his party's political fortunes taking a dip in Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh is contemplating a merger with the Congress, a party source indicated today.
"Talks [between Singh and the Congress leadership] are going on," the source told rediff.com at a luncheon hosted by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sudini Jaipal Reddy.
He pointed out that while the RLD chief has been finding it difficult to hold on to his Jat votes in western Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is finding it difficult to make a dent in them.
The RLD is a partner in the ruling coalition in Uttar Pradesh led by Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, but differences have cropped up between them after Ajit Singh began talking about the need to break up the giant province.
The RLD chief has suggested that the state be divided into eastern, central and western Uttar Pradesh, but Yadav and his party are stoutly opposed to any such proposal. Chief Minister Yadav had earlier also rejected Singh's proposal for a 'Harit Pradesh' carved out of the 18 districts of Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh.
Though Yadav is currently involved in an exercise to prune his government before July 7 as required by the 97th amendment to the Constitution, he has declined the resignations of four RLD ministers after getting wind of Ajit Singh's plan.
Ajit Singh is a politician who has been through almost all existing national parties, except the Communist parties. Even so eyebrows were raised when Singh decided to leave the Congress and join the erstwhile National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001 as agriculture minister.
Singh had fought the 1999 general election with the Congress. But as agricuture minister, he aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh for the 2002 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.
However, the BJP and the RLD began drifting apart when the coalition government of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati was formed. The RLD then threw in its lot with Yadav's Samajwadi Party.
A former UPCC chief who did not wish to be identified said talk of the RLD joining hands with the Congress had been going on for some time. But the understanding reached between Singh and the Congress leadership was likely to lead to the party's merger into the Congress.
The quid pro quo worked out for the merger entails a Cabinet berth for the RLD chief in the United Progressive Alliance government, the source added.