The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu grin changes into grimace

New Delhi, July 29: Andhra Pradesh chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu was upbeat over Mayavati’s demand for the scalp of Union culture and tourism minister Jagmohan. But the cheer might yet prove premature as the demand was reportedly withdrawn today.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister had demanded Jagmohan’s dismissal over the controversial Taj heritage corridor. The speculation was that the growing row might affect BSP-BJP ties.

The news had brought temporary cheer to Naidu, the chief of the Telugu Desam Party, a key NDA partner, as the 14-member BSP’s issue-based support to the Centre had reduced the BJP’s dependence on the Desam.

Adding to Naidu’s woes was the 11-strong ADMK, which was backing the NDA government for all practical purposes. The BSP and the ADMK together accounted for 25 members, an effective counterfoil to the Desam’s 29.

If the BSP ended its uneasy alliance with the BJP, the Centre and the saffron party would have to fall back on the Desam once again. In the process, Naidu’s bargaining power for increased central assistance or seat-sharing with the BJP would grow.

Naidu, who arrived here late last night to meet Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, lost no time in assessing the political situation in Lucknow and Delhi following Mayavati’s demand for Jagmohan’s dismissal. He met his party MPs this morning to discuss the BSP-BJP spat.

Desam sources said they were expecting the spat and the BSP forcing an adjournment in the Lok Sabha to snowball into a crisis, prompting Mayavati to end her uneasy ties with the BJP. The speculation received a boost after some BJP members urged Vajpayee to dump Mayavati.

Naidu’s concern over his bargaining power could be traced to his latest wishlist, which he discussed with Vajpayee today. His demands include:

• A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who will visit Delhi shortly. Some Israeli projects are on in Naidu’s Assembly constituency of Kuppam

• Vajpayee’s intervention in solving water row with Karnataka

• Organising Afro-Asian games in Hyderabad

• Housing the Nizam jewellery in Hyderabad permanently

• Establishing an IIT at Basara

But before he met Vajpayee, Naidu held closed-door discussions with his MPs to assess the fallout of the BSP-BJP crisis.

Sources said Naidu was anxious to know if Mayavati would dump the BJP. But when asked for his reaction, Naidu said: “I am taking stock of the situation. It is a developing situation.”

Earlier, he met Vajpayee for 75 minutes when he sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to restrain Karnataka from overdrawing water. Naidu also had a one-on-one meeting with Vajpayee for 20 minutes.

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