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Arif Beg, Krishna Kumar join BJP

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI OCT. 11. The former Union Ministers, Arif Beg and S. Krishna Kumar of the Congress, and the former CPI(M) Rajya Sabha Member, Bratin Sengupta, today joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They were welcomed into the party-fold by the BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani.

Mr. Sengupta, who retired from the Rajya Sabha recently, could not attend the function. Mr. Naidu said Mr. Sengupta had met him recently in Kolkata and expressed his desire to join the BJP. ``I have decided to accept him in the party,'' he said.

Mr. Naidu described Mr. Beg's return to the BJP as ``homecoming.'' A senior BJP leader and former Minister of State in the Janata Party Government during 1977-79, Mr. Beg left the BJP after it came to power at the Centre in 1999 and joined the Congress.

Mr. Kumar joins the BJP after being a Congressman for more than two decades. He described the BJP as a ``party of the present and the future.''

He was in the political wilderness for seven years ``despite being cleared of all corruption charges, and remaining loyal to the Congress''. He said the BJP ``is symbolising the aspirations of the majority of Indians and is capable of taking India to its rightful destiny''.

Later, Mr. Kumar told reporters that he had not been assured of any post but had given himself the mandate of trying to put together a third front in Kerala. Conscious that the BJP had a negligible presence in the State's polarised polity, the bureaucrat-turned-politician said he had joined the Congress when it was out of power at the Centre and in the State.

``Reluctant'' to criticise the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Kumar said she was unable to tell the wheat from the chaff. Likening the Congress style of functioning to ``palace politics'', he said the BJP was a democratically-run organisation where all rungs of the leadership had a say in the decision-making.

Asked whether his wife, Asha Krishna Kumar, general secretary of the All India Mahila Congress, would follow suit, Mr. Kumar said: ``She is capable of taking her own decisions, and the choice is hers.''

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