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Gowda steps in to extract Cong support for a secular govt in UP - The Indian Express

Vijay Simha ()
12 November 1996

Title : Gowda steps in to extract Cong support for a secular Govt in UP
Author : Vijay Simha
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : November 12, 1996

In a last-ditch attempt to form a secular government in
Uttar Pradesh, the United Front has asked Prime Minister
H D Deve Gowda to take CPI(M) general-secretary Harkishen
Singh Surjeet's place as the chief negotiator with Con-
gress president Sitaram Kesri.

Apparently, Gowda has agreed to do so and is slated to
meet Kesri over the next few days. The change, considered
crucial in UF circles, came about in the UF's steering
committee meeting on November 8 after Samajwadi Party
president Mulayam Singh Yadav floated the idea.

Yadav felt that not much headway could be made despite
the numerous rounds of talks between Surjeet and Kesri
and it was time to change things a bit. And since Mulayam
Singh practically represents the entire UF in Uttar
Pradesh, his suggestion was accepted.

Explaining the rationale to make Gowda the chief negotia-
tor at this stage, a senior Left leader said today:
"Let's be frank about it. You can't conduct hard bargain-
ing with a Communist leader." Evidently, this reflects
the majority UF opinion that things had got stuck for a
while now.

In all of Surjeet's talks with Kesri, the parleys ended
on one point: That BSP general secretary Mayawati was the
only choice for Chief Ministership of Uttar Pradesh from
the Cong-BSP's side. And each time, Surjeet questioned
Mayawati's secular credentials and sought her record of
opposing the BJP

Surjeet and Kesri even sparred for a brief while in a UF
steering committee last month which Kesri attended. That
was probably the last time the two leaders talked on UP
and the decision was then taken to have a fresh spell of
President's rule in the state citing the inability to
install an elected government which could prove its

It isn't as if Gowda is likely to agree on Mayawati's
candidature now, but obviously he carries far greater
clout as Prime Minister and UF head than Surjeet, whose
role is limited in comparison.

On the face of it, Gowda is expected to carry a simple
proposal to Kesri: that the Congress and BSP agree to
search for a compromise candidate, apart from Mulayam
Singh or Mayawati, as UP chief minister. Such a can-
didate could be from any party apart from the BSP and the
Samajwadi Party, Left leaders indicated.

Some names are doing the rounds - though none of them
have the sanction, as yet, of either the Congress or the

BSP - like those of BKKP chief Ajit Singh, former Con-
gress union minister Mohsina Kidwai and former UP chief
ministers N D Tiwari (AICC-T) and Ram Naresh Yadav

"Let them come up with any name. We can then begin
talks. Kesri has to convince Kanshi Ram first that the
only way out is to have a third candidate as chief min-
ister," a Left leader said. And since Gowda himself was
such a candidate for the prime ministership, the UF feels
he is in a better position to deal with Kesri on this
sensitive issue.

Clearly, the UF is not very keen to have another round of
elections in UP. "That is the last resort. It can't be
listed as an option. Elections again will mean failure to
get together and form a government," the Left leader

The UF is hoping that Gowda's negotiating with Kesri will
lend a different perspective to the parleys and lend to
"hard bargaining."

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