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Parties vie to support Congress-led front

EXERCISING CHOICE: Newly elected Congress Members of Parliament attend the Parliamentary Party meeting at the Central Hall of the Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday.

EXERCISING CHOICE: Newly elected Congress Members of Parliament attend the Parliamentary Party meeting at the Central Hall of the Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Anita Joshua

SP, BSP, RJD hand over letters to President; JD(S) too backs coalition

NEW DELHI: The Congress party’s search for numbers in the Lok Sabha is over with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (Secular) handing over letters of support. This effectively brings the entire fourth front and some of the constituents of the third front on to the government’s side.

The Samajwadi Party was the first to hand over a letter of support for the Congress-led government to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Tuesday morning. In the evening the BSP and the RJD followed suit. The former Karnataka Chief Minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, handed over a letter of support on behalf of the three JD(S) members to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the evening and told reporters that his party had no demands.

The Samajwadi Party and the JD(S) claimed that they submitted their letters of support in response to a request from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Meanwhile, a Rashtrapati Bhavan release said the President had received letters of support for the Manmohan Singh-led government from the Bodoland People’s Front, the Sikkim Democratic Front and the Nagaland People’s Front. The three parties have a member each in the 15th Lok Sabha.

The Congress now has the support of 316 members. Meanwhile, the party has also received the letter of support from its pre-poll ally in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress, which has 19 members.

The day also saw Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ms. Gandhi to submit the letter of support and discuss portfolios. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is said to be pressing for three Cabinet berths – one each for Mr. Karunanidhi’s two children, M.K. Azhagiri and Kanimozhi, besides his grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran. The Congress is not keen on conceding more than two Cabinet berths to the DMK.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is also learnt to have sent feelers to the Congress but there is a strong view in the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit against any alliance with Ajit Singh’s organisation. The Congress, for its part, is willing to consider the RLD’s overtures only if it agrees to merge with the party.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi has sent a letter to Ms. Gandhi articulating the State unit’s view that the Congress should respect the verdict and keep the Samajwadi Party, BSP and RLD at a distance.

Even as the Congress and its pre-poll allies are scheduled to sit down together on Wednesday to work out the modalities of government formation, all are bracing for some hard bargaining on ministerial berths and portfolios.

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