Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Hectic talks between JD (U), Cong on new front Amarinder changes stance, attacks Badals, Majithia on drugs issue

- Srinand Jha and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi letters@hindustant­imes.com Aurangzeb Naqshbandi aurangzeb.naqshbandi@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: Spurred by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s perceived weakening of hold over the Muslim electorate and to tap the divided Hindu vote, “secular parties” have reinitiate­d moves to cobble up an alternativ­e political front in the run-up to Uttar Pradesh assembly elections due early next year.

Back channel talks between leaders of the Congress and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal(United) have intensifie­d in the past few weeks following the Dalit thrashing incident in Gujarat’s Una town. Emissaries of the two parties have also re-establishe­d contact with smaller groups, including Mohammad Ayub’s Peace Party and the Krishna Patel faction of the Apna Dal.

Patel, however, remained noncommitt­al on the move, saying the issue will be discussed at the “right time”. Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh who is facing political isolation with diminishin­g influence in western UP could become a part of the front to stay relevant.

Recent trends indicate SP’s loosing hold over minority voters, with representa­tives of nine Muslim groups having recently decided to come together under one roof to oppose Yadav’s party. “The alternativ­e secular front will emerge as the largest grouping and even SP will be compelled to support this formation,” predicted Ayub, the front’s convener.

The Congress believes it could tap the growing disenchant­ment among Dalits, Muslims and Brahmins. “In case of a hung assembly, this grouping can play kingmaker,” a UP Congress leader said.



NEW DELHI: With nearly six months left for assembly elections in Punjab, state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, in a change of stance, has stepped up his attack on the ruling Badal family and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia on the drugs issue.

The sudden aggression is widely seen as a major shift from his position in 2014 when he virtually gave a clean chit to Majithia in the drugs traffickin­g allegation­s. Amarinder had then taken a stand contrary to his party colleagues, including the then state unit chief Partap Singh Bajwa.

Amarinder had argued that a person is innocent until proven guilty and also opposed his party’s demand for transferri­ng the drug racket case from the state police to the CBI on the ground that it would mean playing into the hands of criminals and vested interests. But that was two years ago.

At a rally in Baba Bakala in Amritsar on August 18, Amarinder sang a completely different tune. He blamed chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal and Majithia for “pushing” the state into drugs.

The former CM promised that if the Congress forms the government in Punjab, he will “set Majithia right as he is responsibl­e for destroying and devastatin­g an entire generation.”

Amarinder’s political rivals claim that the shift is due to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal’s pledge to arrest Majithia for alleged drug smuggling. “If Majithia has courage he should get me arrested within six months. Otherwise after six months, I will get him arrested,” Kejriwal had said in Amritsar last month.

But the former CM’s aides dismiss the contention. “He has identified Badals as enemy number one of Punjab. Timing is of great essence. It is better to say appropriat­e things at appropriat­e time to convey the right message. Otherwise, it loses the punch,” Amarinder’s close aide Vimal Sumbly told HT.

“There is no ambiguity about his stand on Badals. His tenure between 2002 and 2007 is an example. He holds Badals responsibl­e for all current ills like corruption, drugs, fake FIRs, unemployme­nt, weakening of Punjab’s case on SYL in the Supreme Court and farmers’ plight.”

 ??  ?? A chopper hovers over the crowd at BSP chief Mayawati’s rally in Agra on Sunday. RAJU TOMAR/HT
A chopper hovers over the crowd at BSP chief Mayawati’s rally in Agra on Sunday. RAJU TOMAR/HT

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