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BSP leader joins Congress

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. Rashid Alvi, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader from Uttar Pradesh, today joined the Congress, pledging to work for uniting the ranks of secular forces in the country, which alone could meet the challenge posed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA alliance.

Mr. Alvi, who represented the Amroha parliamentary constituency in the dissolved 13th Lok Sabha, joined the Congress after meeting the party president, Sonia Gandhi, today. "It is my firm belief that only the Congress has the capability of unseating the BJP-led alliance and forming a government at the Centre,'' he said.

Asked if he would contest the coming Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Alvi said that it was up to the Congress president to take a decision. "If she wants me to campaign and strengthen the secular forces and expose communal elements and leaders, I would gladly do that. If she wants me to contest the polls, I am prepared for that also. My aim would be to work for the defeat of communal forces,'' he told reporters.

Disclosing that he had made efforts to bring about a pre-poll alliance or electoral understanding between the Congress and the BSP as well as the Samajwadi Party, Mr. Alvi said there was no other alternative for him but to join the Congress. Mr. Alvi was upset that the BSP president, Ms. Mayawati, did not renominate him as the party candidate from Amroha. He alleged that the BSP supremo had been distributing party tickets in exchange for monetary considerations.

In his opinion, if Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party were to make the offer of giving 18 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress in U.P., the party even today would be in a position to accept it. However, his claim failed to elicit any response from the Congress spokesman, Kapil Sibal, who introduced Mr. Alvi to the media.

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