The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Development derby fires up allies
Mamata voice muted in victory chorus

New Delhi/Hyderabad, Dec. 4: Partners in the National Democratic Alliance were by and large happy with the poll results as the BJP kept communal agenda on the backburner and won the elections in the three heartland states on the “development” plank.

They hoped that this “positive” trend would continue for next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

Allies such as the Telugu Desam Party and the DMK were especially happy that governance, and not Hindutva, had ensured the BJP’s victory in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

The Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Indian National Lok Dal have also welcomed the BJP’s slow emergence from being a rightist party to a centrist one but some of them were wary that a resurgent BJP might take them for granted besides getting stingy in seat-sharing for the parliamentary polls.

For the Desam, the BJP’s victory on the “development” plank, an issue close to chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s heart, and the humbling of the Congress — its principal foe in Andhra Pradesh — are even more elating with polls in the state likely between March and April next year.

Saying that an anti-Congress wave was sweeping the country, Naidu described the poll outcome as a “vote against non-performance of the Congress governments and Sonia Gandhi’s leadership”.

“The decline of the Congress has begun. Inspite of its being in power, the Congress had failed to give a direction to the development promo and convince the people with effective communication,” Naidu said.

“Congressmen might accept Sonia Gandhi’s leadership but not the common man of the country,” the Desam chief added. Party leader K. Yerran Naidu also welcomed the results, saying that it was a vote for “good governance”.

DMK chief whip in the Lok Sabha S. Palanimanickam welcomed the results and said: “The BJP won on the issue of development, not Hindutva. We welcome the victory.” “Though we will have to go in for micro analysis on the general elections before deciding about forging alliances with A or B, the fact that BJP can win on the issue of governance has come as a great relief to us,” said a DMK source.

If the Desam was happy at the discomfiture of the Congress, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was perhaps the only alliance leader who was not relishing a resounding victory for the BJP. Congratulating the BJP on the results, Mamata said: “It is (the) people’s verdict. We have to respect (it).”

“Elections have to be fought for development, peace, unity and progress. I congratulate BJP,” the Trinamul chief added.

The congratulatory tone notwithstanding, a bolstered BJP brass is not a good signal for Mamata pleading her case for a suitable cabinet berth.

Heady after the victory, hardliners in the party may not be in a hurry to oblige Mamata with a portfolio of their choice. If the results were dampening, the BJP would have treated the allies with more seriousness, said an NDA source.

The victory has also enabled the BJP to consolidate the NDA as some of its allies like the Samata, the Dal (U) and Biju Janata Dal are marred by internal dissensions that threaten to split the respective parties. With the BJP winning the three states, the dissidents may now lie low, at least till the next Lok Sabha elections.

“Some of them who were planning to jump the ship may now have second thoughts,” an NDA leader said.

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