Gargi Parsai

George Fernandes skips meet

NEW DELHI: Janata Dal (United) rebels owing allegiance to the former party president, George Fernandes, attended a convention here on Sunday to revive the Samata Party. Mr. Fernandes, JD (U) MP from Bihar, did not attend. But the former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly was in the forefront along with the current party president Brahmanand Mandal.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the convention, Ms. Jaitly said erstwhile Samata members in the JD (U) had come to reaffirm their faith in Mr. Fernandes. Asked whether Mr. Fernandes supported the move, she said his blessings were always there for the supporters.

Ms. Jaitly told The Hindu that she was never with the JD (U) and had in fact opposed the move to merge the Samata with the JD (U). The JD (U) had not put up any fight as an Opposition party and there was no inner-party democracy. She was also sore about the manner in which party organisational elections were held in which Mr. Fernandes lost the presidentship to Sharad Yadav.

Asked whether the Samata was being revived to provide a political platform to her after she was charge-sheeted by the CBI in the Tehelka scam, she said this was the sixth year of "political vendetta" against Mr. Fernandes. "They have tried to use me as a scapegoat. I have only seen about the CBI charge sheet in newspaper reports. They are all cooked-up cases. We will fight it out in court."

"No post for now"

Although she did not renew her membership of the Samata after stepping down as president in the wake of the Tehelka scam in 2000, she said that as a founder she had "a personal and emotional relationship with it."

For now she would not take any post.

She refuted the charge that the revival move was triggered by the JD (U) leadership denying her a Rajya Sabha nomination from Bihar.

A resolution adopted attacked the UPA Government for the nuclear deal, "suicides of farmers", high prices of essential commodities, "loopholes" in the National Employment Guarantee Scheme, desealing of commercial establishments and "hypocrisy of the Left parties in league with the Congress" on setting up SEZs.

The convention gave a call to all former Samata Party workers to return to the fold.