The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hope springs for both sides

New Delhi, Sept. 4: Mayavati’s hyped press conference today brought glad tidings for the BJP and some in the Congress, but for different reasons.

Uttar Pradesh Congress legislators felt that her refusal to have a national alliance with their party beefed up their case to join the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led government, while the BJP did not hide its glee at the party’s failure, so far, to find new friends, post-Shimla conclave.

“It is positive news for us,” said BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who, like most of his party colleagues, watched the live telecast of the former chief minister’s press conference. “Obviously, the Congress-BSP alliance would have been a formidable one, much more than if the Congress and the Samajwadi Party were to join hands.”

Mayavati’s “disclosure” of how the “Atal Bihari Vajpayee group” had plotted her government’s downfall against the “wish” of the “L.K. Advani group” was hardly an embarrassment, sources said. “This business of Vajpayee versus Advani has been done to death. It is no longer novel because everyone in the party knows they work in harmony,” a source said.

At the end of the day, what mattered to the BJP was Mayavati’s squelching of the speculation that she would announce a “nationwide” alliance with the Congress. The BJP is aware this would have rocked its boat in the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh elections later this year as the BSP has a sizeable presence in pockets in both states.

Although no one in the BJP said so and Mayavati herself denied it publicly, sources close to her said the “turning point” was the CBI’s interrogation of the BSP leader in the Taj corridor case two days ago in Lucknow.

They said Mayavati spoke on the phone to a senior Union minister in Delhi to “explain” her point of view. A senior BSP MP, Rashid Alvi, had alleged to the press that the BJP was “using” the Taj case to pre-empt a tie-up with a “secular” party.

A BSP source, however, said: “There was no pressure from anyone. But in our present state, we realised it is sheer folly to open a front with the BJP and the Centre by aligning with the Congress for the state elections. Especially in Madhya Pradesh, for which the Congress was very keen.”

The BSP has a 10 per cent vote share in Madhya Pradesh and a 1 per cent swing being a clincher in the state, both the BJP and the Congress believe the Dalit party could make or mar fortunes there.

The BJP felt equally heartened at the Congress’ lack of success in Tamil Nadu. Both the DMK and the Congress categorically denied unity moves just when it appeared likely after the press reported that Sonia Gandhi had been invited to the DMK’s general council in Chennai.

The BJP is still testing the waters vis-a-vis the ADMK and a section of the party continues to oppose any realignment with Jayalalithaa after the “unpleasant” experience of 1999 when she had brought down the Vajpayee government.

According to BJP sources, the Prime Minister may call on ailing DMK leader Murasoli Maran when he returns to Chennai from the US this week to assure the DMK that relations were still on an even keel.

Vajpayee is scheduled to visit Chennai shortly.

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