14 April 2002


From Jal Khambata

PANAJI (GOA): The Telugu Desam Party's protest at the Bhartiya Janata Party politically capitalising communal carnage of Gujarat by deciding to go for a snap poll brought out in open the trio who matters in taking the real political decisions in the BJP.

The trio consists of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan. They huddled together in a room in the Raj Bhawan here Saturday night for almost an hour holding strategic session and talking to TDP Chief and Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

The clear message given to Naidu is to go ahead and bring down the Vajpayee Government if he wants to hoist the Congress in power if the next Lok Sabha elections are forced in this manner. A top BJP source said the party wanted this to happen a couple of months later but it will not bend backward to sack Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi or scuttle the Assembly's mid-term poll decided to seek the people's fresh mandate.

Watching the drama were all those invited for a banquet hosted in the honour of the Prime Minister by Goa Governor Mohd Fazal. Even BJP President Jana Krishnamurthi was among the spectators and Vajpayee did not even stop to tell him about the outcome of his telephonic conversation lasting nearly 20 minutes as he sped away in the car.

The trio swiftly moved to an ante room as soon as the dinner was over and Mahajan picked up the phone just after ten minutes of conversation among themselves to call up Naidu in Hyderabad. The call over, they could be seen from distance talking among themselves and then it was a long call by Vajpayee himself.

While none of them were ready to say anything, sources close to Advani said Naidu has been told in firm terms by Vajpayee that his TDP will be responsible for any breakup of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in power at the Centre and that he should see the wisdom that any hasty decision would help none but the Congress to come to power if the government falls and there is a mid-term Lok Sabha poll.

Local daily Herald Editor Rajan Narayan directly confronted the Prime Minister as he was rushing to get into the car, asking him as to what is going to happen in Gujarat. Vajpayee, however, remained tight-lipped. He, in fact, did not speak to any of the assembled BJP leaders either.

Insiders say the BJP is already apprehensive of its vote bank shrinking fast as seen from the recent Assembly elections and as such it wants to revive its own agenda that has given it so many seats in Parliament. All the same, the BJP does not want to take the blame for breaking up the NDA and as such it is just waiting for any of the major allies rock the NDA boat. It will be seen as the BJP being the victim and not culprit of breaking the alliance.

As the insiders point out, the BJP is least concerned as to the vote banks of other allies or about their views at the cost of its own base that is required to be revived as fast as possible. When Advani told the party's national executive on the second day of its 3-day session that ended here on Sunday that there is no reason to be apologetic about the BJP's own ideological moorings, he was giving the diktat to get ready to canvass the BJP agenda to get back the votes that it has lost in trying to pursue the policy of appeasement of the NDA allies.

It will be no more so, though the BJP will keep harping on not ditching the NDA or its common minimum programme and thus put the blame on others if they desert the NDA. That itself will give a clear message to its party cadres that the BJP is no longer going to play soft in advancing its agenda that it had put on the backburner for the sake of the unity of the NDA coalition. END