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SP, BJP coming closer?

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, DEC. 20. Is the "Lakshman Rekha" between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) being blurred? It will appear so going by the statements of the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the SP general secretary, Amar Singh. A day after Mr. Vajpayee hinted at the possibility of the two parties joining hands, today Mr. Amar Singh also indicated something of the kind was possible. All in the name of "national interest." "We would be willing to work with anybody as long as it is in national interest," said Mr. Amar Singh.

Mr. Vajpayee's statement in Lucknow was made at a function in the presence of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Significantly, unlike as in the past the SP has not rejected the idea at the very outset. During the last Lok Sabha elections also Mr. Vajpayee hinted at a similar possibility, making the SP leadership look extremely uncomfortable. Both Mr. Yadav and Mr. Amar Singh had gone into overdrive rejecting the idea.

However, in the last six months much has changed in the political scenario at the Centre. The BJP lost the elections and the SP has been kept out of the United Progressive Alliance. The SP's efforts to rope in the Left Parties to revive the third front have not got off the ground. Senior political observers believe that with both the parties now finding themselves outflanked, they are now drawing closer to each other. Today Mr. Amar Singh left the door open for such a possibility. "It is in the national interest that we are working with the Congress. If national interest demands that we work with some other party, we will do so," he said.

Mr. Singh said it was not for the first time that political parties were working together. "After all Mr. Vajpayee, when he was Prime Minister, used to consult Sonia Gandhi on all national issues. Why should it be any different with the Samajwadi Party?" Mr. Singh said it would be objectionable if the two parties were doing it for political reasons. Mr. Amar Singh also thanked Mr. Vajpayee for commending Mr. Yadav's performance in the State.

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