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Jaya readies NDA ‘terms’, Naveen ‘waits’

May 14: Jayalalithaa is learnt to be sizing up two options, of joining the NDA or backing a third front if the BJP-led combine falls short, while Naveen Patnaik fanned speculation about his plans by saying the “wait” would be over soon.

Although the AIADMK boss and Tamil Nadu chief minister has declared she would announce her decision only after Friday’s election results, party insiders suggested she was weighing the two possibilities.

The first scenario is that the NDA attains the majority mark of 272 seats — but gets less than 300 — and wants to expand its base by roping in new allies like the AIADMK and Naveen’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD). In such a case, Jayalalithaa would consider the alliance but only after an invite from Narendra Modi.

“She would want the invitation followed up by a senior BJP emissary calling on her and explaining the terms of engagement. (BJP president) Rajnath Singh had personally announced the alliance with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies in March. She would expect similar protocol. This will be a message to the BJP that she expected a pride of place in the NDA,” said a senior AIADMK minister.

Other AIADMK leaders recalled that when Modi was sworn in as Gujarat chief minister in December 2012 for the fourth time, Jayalalithaa was seated ahead of BJP bigwigs like L.K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj.

Another issue would be portfolios. Jayalalithaa would like to have more than the DMK did in 2004 in UPA-I — four cabinet and as many junior ministers — and would insist on representation in proportion to her MPs, the insiders said.

Her campaign theme this time had been winning all of the state’s 39 Lok Sabha seats and the lone Puducherry seat so the AIADMK could get a decisive role at the Centre.

Since most exit polls suggest Vijayakanth’s DMDK will draw a blank, the AIADMK could be spared the embarrassment of rubbing shoulders with its bitter rival. But Jayalalithaa would not mind if the MDMK and PMK nominees find a place in the central ministry as they had been part of the NDA in 1998.

“If the BJP and its allies fail to win even one seat, her position will become stronger,” said a state BJP leader. An NDA just below the 272 mark, and dependent on the AIADMK for survival, would increase her bargaining power, he added.

The second scenario would emerge only if the NDA falls well below the 250-mark, which could throw up the possibility of a third front government backed by the Congress. “Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik have already promised Jayalalithaa support as a prime ministerial candidate. The only stumbling block would be the Left — whether the communists will support such an arrangement, forgetting the manner in which Jayalalithaa ditched them, and back a government in which rival Trinamul is a constituent,” the senior AIADMK minister said.

If the third front option runs into internal contradictions and instability, Jayalalithaa’s choice would be the NDA as greater stability and her good equations with Modi would help her secure central funds and projects for Tamil Nadu, an AIADMK MP said. “Given that our next test would be the 2016 Assembly election, being a powerful partner in a central government would come in handy for us,” the MP added.

In Bhubaneswar, a similar guessing game swirled around Naveen after the Odisha chief minister played down a BJD colleague’s remarks that the party could back the NDA.

“No such decision has been taken. There is no thought of any alliance at the moment. There have been no talks,” the chief minister said soon after his arrival from a five-day Delhi trip.

Some other BJD leaders are also said to be in favour of joining the NDA. But Naveen said “there are no such thoughts”.

“Our policy has been equal distance from the Congress and the BJP.” Asked when the BJD would make its stand clear on alliances, Naveen, who had broken off with the BJP in 2009, said: “You don’t have to wait long.”

Odisha had Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Most exit polls indicate the BJD would retain its sway, but its erstwhile ally, the BJP, would make major gains and may well replace the Congress as the main Opposition.