The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP eyes Delhi rule, winks at Mulayam

New Delhi, Aug. 25: The BJP central parliamentary board, the party’s apex decision-making body, will meet tomorrow morning at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence to assess the situation in Uttar Pradesh following Mayavati’s recommendation to dissolve the Assembly, consider the options — political and legal — and come up with a “considered” view.

Jolted as much by Mayavati’s bombshell as the Mumbai blasts, the BJP is considering strategies to prevent the Uttar Pradesh chief minister from carrying on as caretaker.

While the party is unanimous on this point, it seems divided on the best option following the Assembly’s dissolution: whether central rule would be beneficial or allowing an alternative dispensation to take power.

The Prime Minister learnt of the Lucknow and Mumbai cataclysms during a meeting with Guyana President Bharat Jagdeo at Hyderabad House between 11 am and 1.30 pm.

After another meeting on CAS, he went into a huddle with his deputy, .K. Advani, finance minister Jaswant Singh and law minister Arun Jaitley at 7 Race Course Road on the blasts, leaving Uttar Pradesh for tomorrow. However, after Singh left, the others briefly turned their attention to Lucknow.

Mayavati’s manoeuvres were not taken up as no important central leader was present in the capital. Party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu cut short his visit to Chennai and is expected back tonight. Also rushing back are general secretaries Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who were in Aurangabad to prepare for a conclave.

Union agriculture minister and Mayavati’s bugbear Rajnath Singh is back from Lucknow while other senior BJP leaders from the state — Kalraj Mishra, Vinay Katiyar, Lalji Tandon and Om Prakash Singh — are Delhi-bound.

BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said the Centre’s decision would be based on that of governor Vishnu Kant Shastri which, he added, was expected “any moment”. He added that the party was ready to face polls “any time”.

But party sources admitted that a majority of the Uttar Pradesh legislators did not share the view. The Assembly still has a life span of three years and eight months and, as such, the MLAs thought it “pointless” to seek votes again.

The take from Lucknow, the sources said, was that minus the BSP alliance, the BJP would plummet to an all-time low in the state. “In the long run, breaking the alliance may be beneficial for us, but we will not do well in the Assembly elections,” a senior functionary said.

“Not only would we have to explain to our voters why we backed Mayavati as chief minister not once but thrice and share the blame for her sins of omission and commission, we will be left without an ally and a depleted mass base,” he explained.

The view from Delhi was while central rule would be the “ideal” option, an alternative government led by the Samajwadi Party — the single largest party — may not be a “bad” second choice. But the BJP was wary that Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would either poach on its legislators or those of the BSP in a bid to get a simple majority.

A group of BJP legislators had covertly opposed the move to support Mayavati and while some were “coopted” into office as ministers or corporation chairmen, similar blandishments from the Samajwadi may be “equally tempting”.

Asked whether a chief minister can recommend dissolution without quitting office, former chief justice of Delhi High Court Rajindar Sachar said he or she could.

“But then, in UP, without BJP support, the BSP is a minority and Mayavati’s claim is repudiated by the BJP which says it had withdrawn support even before her recommendation to the governor to dissolve the Assembly,” Sachar pointed out.

“In such a situation, it is for the governor to assess whether the chief minister (-led government) has become a minority with the withdrawal of support of an alliance partner. If so, it may not be possible for the governor to accept the recommendation of a minority chief minister,” Sachar added.

He said if Mulayam now staked claim, the “governor just cannot ignore his claim” and will “have to give him an opportunity”.

If he did not or failed the test of strength on the floor of the House, the governor would have to dissolve the Assembly and recommend elections.

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