The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal’s heartland role goes to Advani

New Delhi, Sept. 20: The BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party have decided to cement ties by going in for an electoral alliance in the next Lok Sabha polls.

BJP sources, however, stressed that the alliance would be restricted to Uttar Pradesh, where the party shares power with the BSP. The deal will not apply to states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, where the BSP has a sizeable base.

In a departure, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had worked on the agreement with the BJP. In the past, BSP leaders Mayavati and Kanshi Ram preferred to do business with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

“Both the BJP and the BSP have decided on a long-term understanding and will work towards that,” a source said.

The sources added that the contours of a seat-sharing arrangement have been worked out but refused to divulge details.

The first manifestation of the growing closeness between Advani and the BSP would be a rally to be held in Lucknow on September 28.

Apart from Advani, the only others to be invited from the BJP by chief minister Mayavati are state BJP president Vinay Katiyar and her “rakhi” brother Lalji Tandon. BJP general secretary and former chief minister Rajnath Singh has been excluded, despite being Advani’s protege, because of his known opposition to Mayavati.

Advani’s willingness to attend a BSP show is being interpreted in two ways within the BJP. First, as a gesture of gratitude to Mayavati for not issuing a fresh notification which would have enabled the CBI to revive the Babri case against him.

Second, Advani’s apparent realisation that there is little possibility at the moment of the BJP resurrecting itself on its own in Uttar Pradesh after the dismal performance in the last Assembly elections and its only hope is the BSP.

Even after Uttaranchal’s creation, Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and, therefore, is central to deciding fortunes in Delhi after 2004.

Advani’s “unusual” interest in keeping Mayavati in “good humour”, the sources said, was related to the perception in the BJP that the issue of the next Prime Ministerial candidate is “wide open”.

Despite repeated denials, party insiders said statements made by senior ministers like Pramod Mahajan that the next elections would be fought on the NDA government’s “achievements” and not on an individual’s personality, were not “innocuous”.

A senior leader said: “The first few elections were fought on the strength of being an Opposition party. The next were fought solely on Vajpayee’s personality. Now, they will be fought on the merits of what our government has achieved.”

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said the next elections would be fought under Vajpayee but added: “Naam kay saath kaam (Work along with name) will be the slogan of the party.” Insiders recalled how Advani in the past tried to thwart an alliance with the BSP because another protege of his, former chief minister Kalyan Singh, was against it. This time, he did not indulge Rajnath — a sign that Advani is keeping in mind the possible configurations after the next Lok Sabha elections.

On all the three occasions the BJP-BSP had an alliance, it was sewn up principally by Vajpayee and Joshi. While the Prime Minister is no longer involved in the nitty-gritty of the Uttar Pradesh alliance, Joshi has been keeping a watch through Katiyar, his nominee for the state chief’s post.

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