Sunday, May 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

UP RLD ministers to quit
No immediate threat to Mayawati govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
A day after Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh was forced to resign from the Vajpayee Cabinet, all five ministers of the party today decided to resign from the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh.

Although the RLD ministers’ decision has once again hotted up the political situation in Uttar Pradesh, there seems to be no immediate threat to the Mayawati-led BSP-BJP combine government in the state.

“All five RLD ministers will resign from the Mayawati government”, Mr Ajit Singh told newspersons after an hour-long meeting of the party’s 12 MLAs and central office-bearers at his residence here to discuss the future course of action.

The strength of the BSP-led coalition is at present 222. If the RLD’s 14 MLAs decide to sever their ties with Ms Mayawati, she will be left with a strength of 208, six above the halfway mark.

Although the RLD’s five ministers decided to quit and handed over resignation letters to the party chief here, Mr Ajit Singh kept his future plans and strategy a guarded secret and seemed to be in no hurry to take the next step.

Mr Ajit Singh was today authorised by his party colleagues to take all decisions about the party’s future strategy.

“The party office-bearers and MLAs will meet within three or four days, either in Delhi or elsewhere, to take a final decision,” Mr Ajit Singh said when asked whether the RLD would withdraw from the coalition in Uttar Pradesh.

Twelve MLAs, including four ministers — Mr Kokab Hamid, Ms Anuradha Chaudhary, Mr Thakur Tejpal Singh and Swami Omvesh — attended the meeting.

While Mr Babu Lal, the Agra MLA and a minister, is away to Vaishno Devi, another MLA, Mr Samarpal Singh, was suspended from the party earlier for demanding that the party sever its ties with the Mayawati government.

Asked when would the ministers quit, Mr Ajit Singh said they had already handed over their resignations to him and would go back to Lucknow to submit their letters to the Governor.

Asked why he was taking time to finalise the party’s strategy, he said, “We have to have some time to discuss among ourselves before taking any decision”.

It is quite apparent that the RLD chief will be taking a formal decision on severing ties with the BSP only after having consultations with opposition parties, particularly the Samajwadi Party.

Contacts with the main opposition party in Uttar Pradesh have been established but the death of the wife of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has obviously come as a damper and it is understood that Mr Ajit Singh is going to attend the cremation.

The RLD’s decoupling with the BJP, both in the state and at the Centre, has set in motion the process of realignment of political forces in the state. There are indications that the SP, the Congress, the Left parties and now the RLD are going to form a joint front which would not only try to wreck the BSP-BJP government but also contest the next Lok Sabha elections together.

Meanwhile, BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu asserted that the BSP-BJP coalition government in Uttar Pradesh would have no problem following the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s decision to withdraw its ministers from it.

“There is no threat to the Uttar Pradesh Government. Chief Minister Mayawati spoke to me in the morning, saying that we have sufficient numbers,” Mr Naidu told newspersons here.

Reacting to the RLD’s decision, the Congress said today that the party was keeping its options open.

Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy further said, “RLD chief Ajit Singh has been humiliated through his elimination from the Union Cabinet. He has been used politically and thrown away. This would be the fate of other BJP partners in due course.”

“Mamata has been marginalised. Different parties joined the BJP-led coalition government at the Centre out of compulsion rather than conviction. It was for an outrageous, opportunistic reason that the BJP coalition was formed,” he said.

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