The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cabinet berth bait for BSP

New Delhi, Oct. 6: Efforts are on to get the Bahujan Samaj Party to join the NDA government at the Centre, now that the BSP-BJP coalition government in Uttar Pradesh seems well settled.

BJP sources said a Cabinet reshuffle is likely before the winter session of Parliament starts on November 18.

The reshuffle is meant essentially to fill up the two vacancies created with BJP junior ministers Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje being appointed Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan state unit chiefs presidents, respectively, sources said.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani were keen to bring the BSP on board the NDA, they added.

Singh resigned last week and Vasundhara will follow suit after the “inauspicious” pitrapaksh period preceding Dusshera is over. Then she is formally expected to take over the Rajasthan BJP. These two vacancies will be filled from the BJP quota.

The BJP leadership reportedly proposed to BSP leader Mayavati that one of her Muslim MPs could be inducted as Cabinet minister to “neutralise the apprehensions of the minorities after she refused to issue a fresh notification on the Babri demolition case against Advani and other Central ministers”, as a source put it. Rashid Alvi’s name is doing the rounds.

Although Mayavati stated earlier this week that the BSP had no plans to join the NDA, BSP sources maintained there could be a rethink “depending on the circumstances”. They did not elaborate on the “circumstances”.

Right now, BSP sources said, Mayavati believes giving outside support is the best option. She reportedly cited the example of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to make the point that even with outside support, a party could get as good a deal, if not better, from the Centre.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister, they said, is wary of the possibility of a BSP-Central minister evolving his own line of communication with the BJP and “undermining” her uncontested importance.

The BJP is keen that its present bonhomie with the BSP — manifest in Advani’s appearance at a Mayavati rally in Lucknow — should crystallise into a long-term national alliance for a slew of Assembly elections next year and Lok Sabha 2004.

“The combination would be unbeatable and would ensure that despite an anti-incumbency sentiment, the BJP could form a government again,” said a party functionary. Mayavati’s stand so far was that the alliance would be confined to Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP had tried its best to engineer a social combination in the state and outside to get the Dalits and the backward castes on its side.

But despite projecting individuals like Bangaru Laxman, the party did not make much headway. The BSP is seen as its ultimate hope.

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