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With Natwar gone, Cong offers olive branch to Jat leader Ajit

Wednesday 16 August 2006, by VAJPEYI*Yogesh

With Natwar Singh shooting himself in the foot and with State Assembly elections in the politically important Uttar Pradesh due early next year, Congress trouble shooters have stepped up their efforts to woo Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh.

"The Western UP Jat leader cannot only check possible alienation of the Jat community from the party but also prove a formidable ally in the four-cornered electoral battle in UP," said a senior AICC functionary, who confirmed negotiations in this direction have made some headway.

Sources said Ajit Singh, a veteran of many such trade-offs, is willing to switch camps. His recent attacks on the Mulayam Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh, in which RLD is still a partner, are unmistakable pointers.

The leader of the RLD, which has three members in the Lok Sabha, has been sitting on the fence for a while.

But lately he has been distancing himself from Mulayam. He has heightened the pitch of the RLD’s campaign to carve out the western districts from UP to create a Harid Pradesh. He also attacked the Mulayam Government for giving away over 2,500 acres of land in Dadri (Noida) at a throwaway price to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy for a power project.

Developments during the last two-weeks indicate that the deteriorating relations between Ajit Singh and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav have reached a flash point.

After Yadav rejected the demand for Harid Pradesh, the RLD staged anti-government demonstrations in all UP districts on August 7 where Ajit Singh openly dubbed the State Government "a complete failure".

SP general secretary Amar Singh’s reaction to Ajit’s outbursts indicates that the parting of ways is now only a matter of time.

"You should ask RLD chief Ajit Singh why his party is in the ministry if he is opposed to us," he said.

This has set the stage for Ajit Singh’s entry in the UPA camp. "Do not be surprised if Singh dumps Yadav for Sonia Gandhi and finds himself inducted in the central Government handling a key portfolio," a Congress leader involved in brokering the deal said.

The party is keen to rope in the RLD leader to bolster its electoral prospects in the Jat belt of UP, where its own organisational capabilities are constricted despite the presence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

From Singh’s point of view too, the timing would be just right. Aware of the depleting political stock of Yadav, the RLD leader is keen to snap ties with him lest the unpopularity of the former, sink his own party’s electoral chances in the Assembly elections.

Teaming up with the Congress will not only allow him to bounce back as a central minister but would also result in his playing an equal partner of the Congress Party at least in his backyard in western UP.

See online : Daily Pioneer

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