M A I N   N E W S

Kalyan Singh back in BJP fold
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 3
Leaving behind the "bitterness" and pledging to work wholeheartedly under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh today rejoined the BJP, from which he was expelled after the last Lok Sabha elections in 1999.

Mr Kalyan Singh rejoined the party at the BJP headquarters this evening, in the presence of party general secretaries Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, UP leaders Kalraj Mishra, Rajnath Singh and Vinay Katiyar amidst chanting of slogans by party workers.

The former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister arrived here at 4 pm along with Mr Mahajan, who had gone to Lucknow to bring him, and met Mr Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu prior to joining the party.

Later, addressing a press conference, along with Mr Naidu and other BJP leaders, Mr Kalyan Singh announced the merger of the Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP) and also the resignation of two party ministers, Health Minister Rajbir Singh and PWD Minister Kusum Rai, from the Mulayam Singh-led government in Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Kalyan Singh said he was happy to return "home" and pledged to go all out to ensure that the BJP regained strength in Uttar Pradesh. He expressed confidence that the party would emerge as the majority party in the state.

He also expressed his happiness over the "magnanimity" shown by the Prime Minister on the eve of the latter's birthday when he had gone to wish him on December 24, 2003, at Lalji Tandon's residence. "That was the turning point," Mr Kalyan Singh said.

The UP strongman is likely to share the dais with the Prime Minister at a function in Faizabad as part of the inauguration of a new rail line and bridge on the Saryu river between Katra and Ayodhya on February 7.

Along with Mr Kalyan Singh, former SP leader Balram Singh Yadav, a Lok Sabha member, also joined the BJP.

Welcoming Mr Kalyan Singh back into the party, the BJP President said: "His return will strengthen the party and we will work together to achieve new heights".

Mr Naidu announced that the party would go to the polls in Uttar Pradesh under Mr Kalyan Singh's "guidance".

"Now the battlelines are drawn. The entire world is looking towards India. India is looking towards the NDA and the NDA is looking towards Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We have given a call to all those who are interested in the progress and prosperity of the nation to come and join hands with the BJP", Mr Naidu said.

Asked why it took four years for him to rejoin the BJP, Mr Kalyan Singh merely said: "The past is past. I do not want to look back".

Asked how he would now react to the question on the foreign origin issue, especially when as RKP President he had a different view, Mr Kalyan Singh said: "Since I have rejoined the BJP, my personal views have no meaning and the views of the party will be my views."

Replying to another question on whether he or his son would contest the Lok Sabha elections, he said: "It is for the party to decide."

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