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BJP-BSP government in UP to be sworn in on Friday

Mayawati Uttar Pradesh Governor Romesh Bhandari has accepted the Bharatiya Janata Party-Bahujan Samaj Party's claim to form a coalition government in the state.

BSP leader Mayawati will be sworn in as the state's chief minister on Friday. This will be her second stint in office. Mayawati became chief minister briefly in May 1995, with the BJP's support from outside. However, her government fell four months later when the BJP withdrew its backing.

According to BJP president Lal Kishinchand Advani, who met Bhandari along with senior party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BSP supremo Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, the governor assured them that he would initiate the process of revoking the 17-month-old President's rule in the country's most populous state. Parliament extended President's Rule in UP for another six months earlier this week.

Mayawati's government will have equal participation of both parties though the assembly speaker will be a BJP candidate. Mayawati will head the coalition for the first six months while the BJP's Kalyan Singh -- the state's chief minister when the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished -- will take over for the next six months.

This arrangement will be reviewed after a year. The state government's functioning will be periodically reviewed by a panel consisting of Advani, Kanshi Ram and Vajpayee.

''After a five month stalemate, some way had to be found out and this is the best way to break the impasse,'' Kanshi Ram told reporters. Advani added that his party's alliance with the Akali Dal in Punjab had inspired the BJP to forge a coalition in UP.

''We hope this sort of understanding will extend to other states as well,'' the BJP president said.

The swift turn of events followed Kalyan Singh's offer to form a coalition government with the BSP. It was Kalyan Singh who had consistently opposed an alliance with the BSP, pointing out to the BJP leadership that such an arrangement would undermine the party's vote bank.

During the prolonged dialogue among the leaders of both parties, the idea for an ''alternate'' chief minister was mooted. The arrangement was finally approved on Tuesday night at a meeting at Vajyayee's home where Advani and Kalyan Singh were present.

The BSP's decision to align with the the BJP will leave the Congress with much mud on its face. Kanshi Ram's party was, after all, the Congress's ally for the September 1996 state assembly election.

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