The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam at Atal, Advani door

New Delhi, Jan. 17: Just when it seemed that the BJP’s share of alliances had peaked and that of the Congress was swelling, there is news to cheer the former.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today approached Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy, L.K. Advani, with a pre-poll wish list while ADMK chief Jayalalithaa said she was “flexible” on an alliance and quoted her demand to the Centre.

Hope came from another quarter as Nationalist Congress Party leader Purno A. Sangma seemed set to bid goodbye to his colleague, Sharad Pawar, and cosy up to the NDA.

The Indian National Lok Dal, a constituent of the NDA, was the only wet blanket. President Om Prakash Chautala cryptically said in Panchkula he would take a decision on an alliance after the polls are announced.

Mulayam, whose demand of sweeteners for sugarcane growers in Uttar Pradesh was fast- forwarded to the finance minister yesterday, asked the Centre to give his government the power to sanction electricity plants up to 3,000 MW to speed up development.

He also sought waiving of the conditions the Centre had set while doling out a Rs 485-crore package to sugarcane growers and withdrawal of anti-terror charges against MLA Raja Bhaiyya and his father.

Though the Samajwadi has ruled out any truck with the NDA, Mulayam’s statement that if the Congress clinches a deal with Mayavati, “we will be forced to assess who is secular and who is communal” is being construed by BJP sources as a “positive” sign.

“It indicates that Mulayam is shedding his apathy towards us. He can always justify his support for us in a post-poll scenario by arguing that the Congress… has a truck with the BSP, which allied with us not once but thrice…,” said a BJP functionary.

In Chennai, BJP national executive member Sukumaran Nambiar met Jayalalithaa, reportedly on the directive of the “high command”.

The sources said that last month, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu met her twice. But the vibes were growing cold in the absence of a clear signal from the Tamil Nadu chief minister.

Now, her statement that she is open to alliances is being seen as “entirely positive towards us”, the sources said. Moreover, she has written to Vajpayee, detailing the “worst-ever water shortage” in Chennai and requested Rs 700 crore from the calamity fund.

The BJP’s calculation is that the ADMK and the Samajwadi can, like the Telugu Desam Party, support it from outside “if needed”. Thus the Samajwadi would “safeguard” its minority base and Jayalalithaa’s party can protect itself from “machinations” for a split, a possibility if it were to be part of the government.

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