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|January 8, 1998||
Gujral in dilemma over Jalandhar seat
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral has landed himself in a piquant situation over the Jaladhar Lok Sabha seat.
The United Front leadership has been dissuading him against contesting from Jalandhar with the Akali Dal support on the grounds that it would tarnish the UF's image.
''Gujral will be advised against contesting from Jalandhar as that would give the impression that the UF is hob-nobbing with the Akali Dal which is an ally of the communal Bharatiya Janata Party,'' said a senior UF leader.
He said the UF leadership had been consistently hinting to the prime minister that he should not accept the Akali offer.
Gujral's apparent discomfiture over the issue seems to have increased with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's criticism.
While Gujral's political future appears to be at stake following indications that the UF leadership is poised to forbid his contest from Jalandhar, the fact remains that the prime minister has himself to blame.
Gujral had caused consternation in the UF circles, especially among his Janata Dal colleagues, following his soft stand stand towards Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav. The latter has recently reiterated his invitation to Gujral to contest from any Lok Sabha seat in Bihar. Gujral is now a Rajya Sabha member from Bihar.
Following this, the Janata Dal leadership comprising former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, party chief Sharad Yadav and Union Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan have reportedly demanded Gujral's 'excommunication' from the UF if he does not end his ties with the RJD chief.
To drive home the point, the Bihar JD unit has asked the prime minister to cancel his trip to Bihar, where he was to campaign for the party. The state leaders felt the prime minister would do more harm than good.
Consequently, in the public perception at least, Gujral has sought to trim his links with Laloo Yadav.
However, since Gujral does not have any political base of his own, he is widely regarded as a lightweight.
The harsh fact is that, should the prime minister be successfully dissuaded from contesting from the Jalandhar seat, he would face the danger of being relegated to oblivion.
What is worse, thanks to the JD's internal politics, other senior party leaders seem unconcerned about Gujral's political future. They appear only interested in punishing Gujral for his nexus with Laloo Yadav who has emerged as one of the JD's main foes.
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