NATIONAL

Former Orissa Minister joins Congress

BHUBANESWAR, MARCH 3. Even as the Congress suffers from desertions at the national level, there are small gains for the party in Orissa. The former Law Minister and leader of the Orissa Gana Parishad, Narasingha Mishra, today joined the Congress ranks with his supporters.

The former OGP leader, who joined the Congress in the presence of the Pradesh Congress Committee president, J.B. Patnaik, said that he would work for the party to fight the communal forces. Mr. Mishra, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2000 Assembly election from Binka constituency in Bolangir district, is likely to contest from Loisingha Assembly.

A former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLA from Raghunathpalli constituency in Sundargarh district, Mansid Ekka, also joined the Congress today.

Mazumdar returns

Barun Das Gupta writes from Guwahati:

A former Minister, Abdul Muhib Mazumdar, today rejoined the Congress, after a decade-long estrangement. Signing the primary membership form of the party in the presence of the media, the 70-year old Mazumdar said "I was born in the Congress family. In the evening of my life I have decided to die a Congressman, after wandering away for a while.''

The APCC president, Pawan Singh Ghatowar, said Mr. Mazumdar might not contest an election immediately but would campaign actively for the party. Mr. Mazumdar left the Congress in 1994 and formed the United People's Party of Assam, which merged with the Samajwadi Party in 2000. He then became president of the Assam unit of the SP but resigned in July 2001.

Mr. Mazumdar was a Minister in the Hiteswar Saikia and the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta Cabinets.