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Fernandes moots anti-Congress front

By Our Special Correspondent



The Defence Minister, George Fernandes (right), with the AIPJD President, S.R. Bommai, at the latter's residence, in Bangalore on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

BANGALORE, JAN. 22. The Defence Minister and President of the Janata Dal (United), George Fernandes, has suggested the idea of all the Janata Dal factions reaching an understanding to put up a united fight against the Congress.

With the discussions on merger failing to yield results so far, the proposal was that all the Janata Dal factions and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would finalise a seat-sharing arrangement and put up a straight contest against the Congress in the State and at the national level.

Sources privy to the discussions which the Defence Minister had with several Janata Dal leaders in Bangalore today told that the proposal put across by Mr. Fernandes was likely to gain support. The All-India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD) headed by the former Chief Minister, S.R. Bommai, is expected to take the lead in pursuing the proposal at the State level while Mr. Fernandes would push it at the national level. The AIPJD leaders assured Mr. Fernandes that they would discuss the proposal and arrive at a decision by January 30.

Mr. Fernandes, who called up some senior AIPJD leaders on Wednesday and appreciated the move to form the Karnataka Progressive Democratic Front, arrived here early today and went straight to the residence of the former Irrigation Minister, H.N. Nanje Gowda, where the two leaders had a breakfast meeting. He then went to the residence of Mr. Bommai and had a lengthy meeting. He later visited the residence of the late Ramakrishna Hegde and met his wife, Shakuntala Hegde, and offered his condolences to the bereaved family members.

The visit by Mr. Fernandes led to a flurry of political activity in the Janata Dal factions and efforts were on to convince the Janata Dal (Secular) to join the Karnataka Progressive Democratic Front. Reports have it that while the JD(S) would not be averse to a seat-sharing arrangement with the AIPJD, if not a merger, it would not be a party to any arrangement with the BJP.

Incidentally, the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, is away in Mumbai recuperating after a minor surgery.

The AIPJD, meanwhile, will prepare a common minimum programme and place it before all like-minded parties for acceptance. This exercise is expected to commence in about a fortnight.

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