The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya not to go out of her way

Chennai, Aug. 18: Jayalalithaa, who has moved ideologically closer to the BJP in recent months, has chosen to “abstain from voting” on the Congress-sponsored no-confidence motion. The ADMK today said it will “not even participate in the debate”.

The move is an indirect concession to the NDA, but the Tamil Nadu chief minister said her party, which has 11 MPs, was abstaining because the NDA had not sought its support. Speaking after an ADMK executive meeting, she said there was no reason for her party to “go out of the way” to help the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government since the NDA has a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha.

“As far as we can see, the government is facing no danger (in number terms),” Jayalalithaa said.

In recent months, the ADMK chief has boldly said the country needs a common civil code at a time when most other chief ministers are keeping silent for fear of alienating minorities. She has also openly supported “in principle” the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

But this is only one side of the story.

After all, alliance convener George Fernandes had said after Saturday’s NDA meeting that Jayalalithaa’s support would be “appreciated”. The defence minister said there was no “contradiction” in seeking help from the DMK and its arch-rival, the ADMK.

It appears that Jayalalithaa had a rethink after DMK central minister T.R. Baalu protested the move to seek the ADMK’s support. He said the DMK, which has 12 MPs, had always proved a “dependable ally” and that there was “no need” to seek help from parties outside the NDA since the government could weather the storm easily.

The ADMK chief would not comment when asked if the BJP had “dropped the idea” of seeking her support because of the DMK protest.

She was surprised that Fernandes had tried to telephone her on Saturday evening.

In April 1999, Jayalalithaa had demanded the defence minister’s dismissal over allegations of corruption levelled by former navy chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. But relations have improved since Fernandes met the ADMK at the secretariat here in November last year.

Jayalalithaa is already in election mode, having announced a rollback in the price of ration rice sold under the public distribution system and the revival of the “free sari, free dhoti scheme” during her Independence Day address last week. The NDA’s bid to seek support from the ADMK chief, who has adopted a “soft Hindutva” line, is seen as an attempt to “ease out” the DMK from the alliance.

The coalition’s sounding out of Jayalalithaa coincided with DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s statement that his party was yet to decide on the Left’s call to support the no-trust vote. Karunanidhi is unhappy that the Centre has done “nothing” to stop the ADMK’s “lawless acts” against the DMK and the MDMK.

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