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Delhi pulls one way, UP another

New Delhi, Feb. 14: A high-level meeting called by the BJP to iron out differences between the party leaders in Uttar Pradesh and chief minister Mayavati has failed to reach a solution.

Instead, it brought into sharp focus the differences in perception between Delhi and Lucknow on the BJP-BSP alliance.

While the Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders felt that the coalition government with Mayavati would “eat away whatever was left of the party in Uttar Pradesh”, the central brass insisted it should be allowed to continue until the next Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP leaders will meet Mayavati tomorrow to see if a coordination mechanism can be evolved to at least maintain a working relationship and ensure “things do not go out of hand”, sources said.

Once the mutual differences are sorted out, only then will Mayavati meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the sources said. “If she leaves for Lucknow without meeting the Prime Minister, it means things are bad,” they added.

Sources in Uttar Pradesh said the nearly three-hour meeting stressed on two points. “One was that our workers do not feel this is a coalition government because they are left out of everything. They are very, very angry. The second was that the BJP’s base is rapidly eroding in a state that brought it to power in the Centre,” the sources said. “We gave our analysis of the situation, now it’s up to the central leaders to take a decision.”

Today’s meeting, which was called by BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu at his residence, was attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who was invited at Vajpayee’s insistence.

Although it was initially slated to be a small session between the central bosses and handpicked representatives from Uttar Pradesh, the meet evolved into a huge one with 16 MPs and MLAs from the state attending, all of whom were allowed to have their say.

Briefing reporters, Naidu said: “What exactly we decide, we will tell you tomorrow. Some suggestions came up today and these will be discussed.”

Asked if the coalition was under threat, Naidu replied “no questions, no answers”, while senior Uttar Pradesh minister Lalji Tandon’s response was “ask the chief minister this question”.

However, the implications of the meeting were crucial not just for the alliance but for the BJP’s internal equations, too. Joshi’s presence has apparently strengthened the positions of Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Vinay Katiyar and leaders like Kalraj Mishra and Tandon vis-a-vis the party general secretary and former chief minister, Rajnath Singh.

Singh left discreetly after the meeting, leaving a visibly happy Katiyar and Mishra to address reporters along with Naidu. Katiyar had allegedly been appointed by former BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi at Joshi’s behest.

Singh has reportedly been packed off to Punjab to address a rally and will not attend tomorrow’s meeting.

His absence conveys another message — the former chief minister is perceived to be the most “anti-Mayavati” among the BJP leaders, although others like Katiyar were as vociferous in lambasting Raja Bhaiyya’s arrest .

The BJP believes that while the others can be “cajoled” by Joshi and, perhaps, the Prime Minister, Singh is a tough nut to crack. “With him out of the scene, at least we can think of working out the modalities of coordination. If he was around, his one-point agenda would be to snap ties with Mayavati,” sources said.

The other fallout of today’s meeting was the appointment of Nagendra as Uttar Pradesh organisational secretary— a post created for the first time at the behest of RSS joint general secretary Madan Das Devi. Devi, who also showed up today, lent strong support to Nagendra, who like him was an activist of the RSS’ student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad.

But Nagedra’s appointment was construed as a sign that the Uttar Pradesh organisation should be revved up just in case the state goes for a snap poll, given the uncertainty over the coalition government.

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