Rift in Samata widens

NEW DELHI, AUG. 30. Differences in the Samata Parliamentary Party, brewing for some time over the manner in which its affairs were being conducted, reached a dramatic moment on Wednesday night, when its leader, Mr. George Fernandes, offered to relinquish the post. The offer was rejected.

The offer came at an emergency meeting of the Samata Parliamentary Party, which was attended by majority of the 14 MPs. Some MPs expressed serious reservations over the functioning of the former president, Ms. Jaya Jaitly, especially on the Tehelka episode, party sources said.

A section of the MPs were of the opinion that the entire episode had been made to appear as ``Samata versus Tehelka'' whereas it included even the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman, too had to resign.

Mr. Fernandes' offer came after some MPs had expressed the opinion that infrequent meetings of the Parliamentary wing resulted in a situation when MPs were not aware of the party stand on some important issues. This, coupled with criticism over other issues, apparently led the Parliamentary party leader make the offer. However, the party's Bihar unit chief, Mr. Raghunath Jha, took the lead in rejecting the offer outright, stating that rather than accepting Mr. Fernandes' resignation it would be better to disband the Samata itself.

One of the reasons for the meeting was a statement by Rajya Sabha member, Mr. Rajiv Ranjan Singh `Lallan', who had objected to frequent statements from Ms. Jaitly over Tehelka recently. There were others too who shared the sentiment. Of course, there was another view that the treatment being meted out to Ms. Jaitly was more severe that what the BJP had handed down to Mr. Laxman.

While Ms. Jaitly and to a lesser extent the conduct of party general secretary and spokesman, Dr. Shambu Shrivastwa, as also their presence in many a meeting of Parliamentary party was the focus of discussion, the development had its origin in the subtle shift in the loyalties within the party. A large section of the MPs were now moving closer to the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar. Among their grouses is the move by party leadership to promote the Minister of State for Railways, Mr. Digvijay Singh.