Sunday, January 30, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

BJP, BJD reach seat pact

BHUBANESWAR, Jan 29 (PTI) — After a fortnight of bitter bargaining, the Biju Janata Dal and its poll ally (BJP) today clinched a seat-sharing agreement for the elections to the 147-member Orissa Assembly, the BJD is to contest the lion’s share of 84 seats.

Under the accord, announced simultaneously by BJD President Naveen Patnaik here and BJP General Secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu in Delhi, the BJD would contest 84 seats and the BJP field its nominees in 63 constituencies.

The seat-sharing formula for the Assembly poll, scheduled for February 17 and 22, was on the pattern adopted by the two allies in the last two Lok Sabha elections in the state, Mr Patnaik said.

Senior BJP leader and Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, who earlier in the day threatened that his party would go it alone in the polls if it was not given half of the 147 seats, came round to accepting the accord hours later.

The talks between the two parties had remained bogged down for the past 12 days over the BJD demand to contest 100 seats while state BJP leaders insisted on sharing the seats on a 50:50 basis.

“I think it is alright,” Mr Oram told mediapersons here in a dramatic softening of stand after declaring “either half the seats or the BJP will fight it alone.”

The agreement was wrapped up following intervention by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan who had talks with Mr Naveen Patnaik as well as Orissa BJP leaders.

Senior state BJP leader Bishwabhusan Harichandan said in Delhi that talks with the BJD for identification of seats to be fought by the two parties would be held tomorrow in Bhubaneswar.

He said although he was not happy over the number of seats given to the party under the accord, the BJP state unit accepted it since it was worked out by the central leadership.

The BJD leadership was initially unwilling to accept the accord mooted by top BJP leaders but veered round to it after “wider consultations” in the party’s Political Affairs Committee.

Asked if he was happy at the agreement, Mr Naveen Patnaik said: “I think we are stronger. We reached the agreement with the BJP in the interest of the alliance and to give a stable government to the state.”

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