IN A U-turn, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar on Thursday decided to attend Samajwadi Party’s foundation day function in Lucknow on Saturday, in what is being seen as a step towards bringing in renewed unity in the socialist camp ahead of the UP Assembly polls early next year.
While speaking to The Indian Express, SP state president Shivpal Singh Yadav’s office confirmed that Nitish will attend the event on November 5. Sources said Nitish gave his consent after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav spoke to him over phone late Thursday and invited him to the function.
Initially, the party had decided to send senior leader Sharad Yadav to the event. This was after JD(U) had earlier said that it would skip the function, which is being held amid infighting in the SP. “Nitish ji regards Mulayam as a senior politician and after speaking to him over phone, it is possible that Nitish ji would attend the SP event,” said a JD(U) leader.
JD(U) maintained that the party took the decision after consultation with RLD, its alliance partner in UP. JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said: “Nitish Kumar has been a pioneer in making efforts to bring non-BJP parties together. How can we stay behind when socialists are gathering in Lucknow? RLD and JD (U) took the final call.”
“…If SP initiates an alliance, JD(U) will respond positively. Being a senior leader and head of the ruling party, Mulayam Singh Yadav should take initiative in this direction,” he added. He, however, maintained that JD(U) will contest UP polls even if there is no alliance.
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Another senior JD(U) leader said: “The SP function is an opportunity to revive the bid to unite Janata Parivar. We do not want to shut the door on any such chance.”
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who has already confirmed his participation in the function, said JD (U) should attend it too. However, he said the media was making much of the event. The invitation was only to attend the foundation day function and “not to discuss any alliance”, he said. Meanwhile, Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor had also met Mulayam and SP general secretary Amar Singh earlier this week.
Earlier in the day, SP state president Shivpal Yadav said Lalu, JD(S) leader and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, JD(U) leaders Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi, RLD chief Ajit Singh, INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala, senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani and other SP leaders, including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, would attend the event on Saturday.
On forming coalitions during the event, Shivpal said, “It will be decided by the national leadership. All samajawadis are invited… Congress has not been not invited yet… At our event, all national leaders will put forth their views and they will decide (on coalition)… Amar Singh too has been invited but it is not yet confirmed whether he would attend
Shivpal said the silver jubilee celebration event would send out a message that secular forces will not let BJP form the government in UP. “This is the target of SP. We will form the government in UP in 2017. After that, secular forces will join hands to remove BJP from power at the Centre,” he claimed.
About the possibility of forming a grand alliance, Shivpal said top SP leaders will discuss the issue after November 5. About his own view on need for alliance, Shivpal said: “We have a government with a clear majority at present. Also, SP is capable (of coming to power) on its own. But the party’s senior leaders will discuss the matter.”
Asked about any move to reconsider taking back Ram Gopal Yadav – his cousin whom he expelled – in the party, Shivpal said, “He was removed on direction of the SP national president. If he wants to come back, he should approach him and give him an application for reconsideration.”
On leaders close to Akhilesh, whom he had expelled in the recent past, the SP state chief said: “They were not supposed to be at here and they should not be present at the silver jubilee celebrations as well. But they cannot be stopped from being a part of the crowd.” SP leaders said expelled MLCs Sunil Yadav Sajan, Anand Bhadauria, Arvind Yadav and Sanjay Lathar — key functionaries in Akhilesh’s yatra — were on stage at the event venue on Thursday.