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Cautious BJP holds horses

New Delhi, Dec. 9: The BJP is still “firm” on not getting into the process of government formation in Delhi unless it is assured of a simple majority, said a source close to Nitin Gadkari who is in charge of the capital unit.

The word from Narendra Modi was rather than “wallow in the murky waters of breaking parties and cobbling parties”, the BJP should wait for a re-election and in the interregnum, identify its flaws, rectify those and begin reconnecting with party workers and campaigning “seriously” rather than rely on the leaders for a last-moment bailout.

The BJP’s sense was Delhi was heading for a mid-term poll that could possibly be held with the Lok Sabha election in May 2014. In the meantime, the Assembly would be placed under suspended animation before which the MLAs could take oath of office and Delhi would be brought under President’s rule. That step will take place after the Election Commission formally notifies the election of the MLAs in the next couple of days.

A BJP leader said in case the Delhi lieutenant governor invited the party to form a government by virtue of a norm that requires all options to be exhausted before placing the Assembly in suspended animation and imposing President’s rule, it would “go through the motions of getting a simple majority in a text-book sort of way”. The norm prescribes inviting the single largest party first in case of a fractured verdict.

Gadkari said if the BJP got a simple majority — that is the support of 36 members — it would go ahead and stake claim. Otherwise, it prefers to sit in the Opposition, he said.

Gadkari also invoked the “precedent” set by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996 when the BJP emerged the single largest party in the Lok Sabha polls. The then President, Shankar Dayal Sharma, invited Vajpayee to form government and gave him 13 days to prove majority. Vajpayee could not marshal the numbers and quit.

Gadkari said Vajpayee preferred to “forfeit power” rather than hang on to it through “means fair and foul” and added in Delhi, the BJP wanted to “live up” to that example.

It was not as though the BJP always adhered to Vajpayee’s example. In 1998 in Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath Singh and his colleagues managed to lure away MLAs from the Congress and the BSP after the BJP brought down the Mayawati dispensation it supported. The mission was named “Operation Shakti”.

In Karnataka, it embarked on an elaborate “Operation Lotus” to shore up B.S. Yeddyurappa’s minority government in 2008 and 2009 by poaching on the Congress and spiriting away the Independents and legislators of the fringe parties

“We paid a price for such adventurism. Not only did we have to depend on unreliable supporters and fulfill their persistent demands, we lost goodwill among the people who voted because we claimed to be a party with a difference,” a source said.

The BJP feared if it plunged into the numbers game, it would be targeted by the Aam Aadmi Party for being “unethical and power-hungry”. “That would send a negative signal country-wide and prove disastrous before the Lok Sabha polls,” the source said.

On the flip side, the new winners were already fearful of fighting another election and more importantly, getting re-elected in the face of an “AAP wave,” the source said. But their fears would not “pressure” the leaders to have a shot at government formation, the source added.