Pawar optimistic on merger of Janata Dal factions

Bangalore Jan. 3. The President of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Sharad Pawar, has said that the consolidation of a third front was the need of the hour in the light of the poll outcome in Gujarat and the Congress's outlook in the recent elections.

He told The Hindu here today that there was a likelihood of the BJP aggressively pursuing the Hindutva agenda now in the belief that it was this that enabled the party to win the elections in Gujarat.

The fact, however, was that the people had little choice between the BJP and the Congress which had also pursued a "soft" Hindutva line.

"If the BJP launched its political campaign for the elections from Dwaraka, the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, launched it from Ambaji and all through the Congress's campaign, the party leader, Shankarsinh Waghela, had the penchant to state he was more a Hindu than anybody else. This in itself is an indication of the Congress's challenge to the BJP."

Referring to the political developments in Karnataka, particularly the attempts of the two factions of the Janata Dal to come together, Mr. Pawar exuded confidence that the two groups would come together if not immediately at least some time later, and this in turn would pave the way for the emergence of a major political combination at the national level. On several occasions in the past, the developments in Karnataka had triggered new political alignments and the present situation could also result in yet another formation.

"Let there be a kick-start here and we will expedite the matter at the national level," he said.

Mr. Pawar, who is also the Vice-Chairman of the National Disaster Management Committee, was in Bangalore over the past two days to attend the National Science Congress. Being instrumental in the efforts to consolidate a Third Front, Mr. Pawar called on the former Prime Minister, H.D.Deve Gowda, and the President of the All-India Janata Dal, S.R.Bommai, among others.

The NCP President, however, could not meet Ramakrishna Hegde as the latter is indisposed.

Although he remained tight-lipped on his discussions with Mr. Deve Gowda and Mr. Bommai, the NCP President said he was confident that the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Janata Dal (United) would come together and that the NCP would also coordinate and cooperate with the Janata Parivar. Owing to its relationship with the Janata Parivar, the NCP would not venture to float a State unit in Karnataka, he said.

Mr. Pawar said there was a general feeling among the Janata Parivar leaders across the country on the need to come together. "With the political ideology of all factions of the Janata Parivar in the country being one and the same, unity should not be a problem. The farmers, the youth, and the working class were all looking for a third front that was totally committed to secularism. The people want a third front and if the political leaders do not want it, the voters will have the last laugh in defeating all of them," he said.

In his view, the consolidation of a third front could lead to disintegration of the National Democratic Alliance.

"Analyse the statements of the DMK leader, M.Karunanidhi, or even that of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N.Chandrababu Naidu. The Telugu Desam has stayed out of the NDA Government since it obviously would not like to directly align with the BJP. There are many political parties in the NDA which are unhappy with the state of affairs. All of them will come out of the alliance when a formidable secular front is constituted. The situation now is similar to what happened in 1977 when the Janata Party came into being all of a sudden. Political leaders and parties have to fall in line when the people want it," he said.

Mr. Pawar said he had been holding discussions with political leaders across the country over the past few months and would continue the dialogue. "The need is for a real secular front. After all, we are all members of one family and unity should not be a problem."

After attending the inaugural function of the science congress, Mr. Pawar met all the top leaders of the newly floated All-India Janata Dal at the residence of the Floor Leader of the Janata Dal (U) in the Legislative Assembly, P.G.R.Sindhia. Among those present were Mr. Bommai, C.Byre Gowda, M.P.Prakash, Ramesh Kumar, K.Jayaprakash Hegde, B.A.Mohideen, Leeladevi R.Prasad, Basavaraja Rayaraddi, and V.S.Krishna Iyer.

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