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Wednesday, February 9, 2000

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Ex-minister Kamaluddin joins BJP

NEW DELHI, FEB 8: Former Union Minister in the Narasimha Rao Government Kamaluddin Ahmad proved smarter than his two party colleagues, Rajesh Khanna and Meira Kumar, in joining BJP. While Ahmad joined BJP today, Khanna is bargaining with both BJP and Samajwadi Party, and Meira Kumar's future hangs in the balance as both BJP and Samata Party have shut their doors on her.

``Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and general secretary Amar Singh have requested me to join their party and have offered me a Rajya Sabha seat,'' Khanna told The Indian Express today. Some BJP leaders too had requested him to join their party, he claimed. Had they too offered him a Rajya Sabha berth? ``Much more than that,'' he exclaimed. Asked which party he was inclined to join, Khanna said, ``Just wait and see.''

Interestingly, BJP general secretary M Venkaiah Naidu denied the party was in touch with either Khanna or Kumar. ``Many people want to join the BJP but the party will take its own decision on whom to admit,'' hesaid today. A senior Samata leader confirmed that Kumar had met Defence Minister George Fernandes twice and expressed her desire to join the party. Fernandes reportedly remained non-committal, but the opinion in Samata Party is said to be against offering any such assurance.

``She can join our party as an ordinary member. We'll find it very difficult to accommodate her either in the Rajya Sabha or in the list of officebearers,'' the leader said. The BJP's response too has been similar. Khanna claims his options are still open and is bargaining hard. Sources claim that though he was called up twice by Sonia Gandhi's secretary, V. George, he refused to talk to her.

Khanna has earlier turned down the Congress leadership's directive to contest the LS by-election from Kannauj. He admitted today that his decision was prompted by Mulayam's request not to contest against his son, Akhilesh. His relations with the SP became clearer when his wife, Dimple Kapadia, attended Amar Singh's birthday bash recently.Khanna claims the SP's offer was not new. Amar Singh wanted him to join SP when the two met in Nainital during the LS polls last year. ``They have only renewed their offer,'' he said. Khanna was apparently trying to reap the maximum benefit. Sources claimed that he could even rethink on his decision to quit the Congress, if a suitable offer was made.

Kamaluddin Ahmad has put in four stints in Parliament and two in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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