The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big brother gives allies gobble jitters

New Delhi, Dec. 30: The BJP’s new-found zeal to expand its base in various states and its resolve to win 300 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections have triggered panic among its allies.

They are scared that to win so many seats, the party will have to contest at least 500 out of the 544 Parliament seats. This spells effective marginalisation of the allies by leaving very few seats for them.

High on its sweeping victory in Gujarat, the BJP wants to adopt different “state-specific” strategies. “We are watching which way the elections in nine states go,” an alliance leader said, hinting that the BJP would not be able to replicate the Gujarat experiment in other states and may be forced to eat humble pie.

The NDA government, no doubt, appears set to complete its term. There are signs of some of the allies either jumping out of the bandwagon or the BJP dumping them, but only in the run-up to the next general elections.

The cracks in the alliance came out in the open today when DMK chief M. Karunanidhi said the party’s Tamil Nadu unit has “secret plans” of aligning with the ADMK in future elections.

While the BJP is cosying up to Jayalalithaa, MDMK chief Vaiko, another NDA ally, who was charged under the anti-terrorism Act, is languishing in jail.

Rubbing salt on the wound, state BJP general secretary H. Raja refused to sign a petition addressed to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, seeking repeal of Section 21 of the Act. Opposition parties, too, have signed the memorandum that will have one crore signatures.

BJP national secretary L. Ganesan said the next Lok Sabha polls would witness a political realignment. Local BJP leaders have also been highlighting the DMK’s “anti-Hindu” credentials vis-a-vis the ADMK’s recent pro-Hindutva stand.

PMK chief S. Ramadoss, a BJP ally, said in Chennai yesterday that the people are “unhappy with the performance of the ADMK government”. He called on the Congress, the DMK and the Left parties to join hands to defeat the party in the Sathankulam byelection.

In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has started picking up local issues to endear itself to the majority community. State party leaders protested against the deletion of certain scenes from Khadgam, a film that depicts Muslims in negative light.

Following pressure from the minority community, some scenes were removed at the instance of the Chandrababu Naidu government. Enraged BJP workers demonstrated at Hindupur in Anantapur district, forcing the police to resort to lathicharge. The BJP leaders are now demanding immediate suspension of superintendent of police Anjana Sinha for beating up their workers and not taking action against the “anti-national elements who raised pro-Pakistan slogans”.

“The BJP has grown greedy. It was able to register its presence in the south because of us, but now it wants to gobble us up,” said an NDA leader.

There is also apprehension that the hardliners basking in the glory of the Gujarat experiment are impatient to implement their brand of Hindutva and would want a mandate for the BJP minus the allies in the 2004 general elections.

Alliance leaders feel that to achieve its objectives, the BJP may try to poach on the political space of its allies in states where they are stronger.

The DMK, however, is worried that the saffron party might dump it in favour of the ADMK.

The BJP has successfully silenced the allies’ political opposition to its hardline agenda. Some like the Biju Janata Dal, the Trinamul Congress, the JD(U) and the Samata Party are torn by internal tussles, with some on the verge of split. In the case of the BJD and the Trinamul, BJP strategists are allegedly helping potential splitters covertly.

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