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Up Seat Sharing Creates Rifts In United Front

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Some Janata Dal leaders too, are deeply upset that Ajit Singh's party has got almost as many as they and that Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has once again hogged the lion's share - evidently with the support of Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.

No leader of the Congress(T) was present at a joint press conference yesterday, at which other front leaders failed to announce the names of even a single candidate. They were only able to announce the numbers of seats each constituent would contest - that too, tentatively.

The Samajwadi Party is to contest at least 275 of the 425 seats, the Janata Dal 56, Ajit Singh's fledgling party 40, the Congress(T) 31 and the Left parties 25, CPI general secretary AB Bardhan said, but had to keep adding that these figures were tentative, plus or minus five.

Bardhan was contradicted by other UF leaders in front of the press. He announced, for instance, that 50 seats had been given to Dal and its working president Sharad Yadav promptly pointed out to Bardhan that the figure was 56. And the figure was corrected.

A few minutes after Bardhan had announced that Ajit Singh's party would contest 30 plus seats, he was made to announce an amendment that the BKKP would contest 40 seats. This announcement came after Ajit Singh spoke to Surjeet and Mulayam who were sitting next to him.

When newsmen pointed out these discrepancies, Left leaders said that they had given broad figures and added that the final list would be released today. They also maintained that Congress(T) leaders were busy at another meeting.

The Janata Dal had claimed about 150 seats, then scaled that down to 100, but ended up with only 56. This is far less than the 80 Assembly segments (spread in 16 Lok Sabha seats) which Mulayam Singh had given the Dal for the Lok Sabha elections. That number had then seemed like a pittance and some Dal leaders had made up their minds to hold out for a larger share this time.

Gowda did not stand by them, however. The national leaders of the Left parties too have once again backed Mulayam Singh to the hilt in deciding how many seats each partner should contest.

In the event, they have gained the most. Compared to 20 Assembly segments (four Lok Sabha seats) which the CPI(M) and the CPI had got in the Lok Sabha seats, they have got 25 Assembly seats. Though, they will have to share a couple of seats with the Forward Bloc, which wants to register its presence in UP.

The question of leadership also remained vague. While other leaders reiterated that the election would be fought under Mulayam Singh's leadership, Ajit Singh said that the leadership question was not the issue. He stressed that, as per the practice, the MLAs elected the Chief Minister.

Mulayam Singh said he would reveal in a day or two whether he would contest the Assembly elections.

Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav, who came late for the press conference, also tried to play down the leadership issue, saying, we are not electing our leader in the UP Assembly now.

To subsequent queries, he said: He is an experienced person and is protecting the country (as defence minister). Don't you want him to keep protecting the country, Laloo Prasad asked as Mulayam Singh squirmed in his seat.

At the same time, Laloo complimented Mulayam Singh for accommodating Front partners and even denying tickets to some of his sitting MLAs while doing so.

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