The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies jittery over BJP’s falling fortunes

New Delhi, Oct. 12: Already worried by the BJP’s plummeting graph, NDA allies are getting increasingly uneasy after its washout in Jammu and Kashmir.

With general elections scheduled less than two years from now, the allies are in a bind: whether to swim or sink with the big brother. Some of them believe the National Conference would have secured at least 10 more seats and cobbled together a government if it had not associated with the BJP.

Except for Goa, the BJP has lost state after state ever since the National Democratic Alliance formed the government at the Centre. For allies like the Telugu Desam Party, the DMK, the Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United), the Biju Janata Dal and the Indian National Lok Dal, the “party with a difference” has now become a “liability”.

A senior NDA leader said the most worried were the Lok Sabha MPs of the allies. “Even the Hindus rejected the BJP in Jammu, its stronghold, what to talk about other states. Even if the BJP manages to scrape through in Gujarat, the party may not be able to fetch even 100 seats in parliamentary elections,” he said.

According to a Dal (U) leader, the VHP and the RSS, too, have read the writing on the wall. “They are getting restless,” he said, adding that unless the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government does something drastic to rein in the parivar and provide good governance, “our fate is sealed”.

The allies that are in serious trouble are the ones which are rabidly anti-Congress, such as the Desam, the Samata, the INLD and the BJD. They are in a bind as dumping the BJP might benefit the Congress in their respective states.

Sources say Samata leader George Fernandes has grasped the ground situation more than any other alliance leader. “The press has lost out the significance of his remarks at a press conference in Delhi early this week,” said a political observer. Fernandes had for the first time said the “communal situation” in the country was far from good.

He said the Samata’s national council meeting at Rajkot between October 29 and 31 is likely to adopt a resolution stressing on the need for communal harmony. Observers say the defence minister’s comment was not without meaning and that he has begun to think whether to keep all his eggs in the BJP’s basket.

The same holds true about his stand on divestment. The party is also likely to call for a mid-course review of reforms and the entire range of the NDA’s policy. According to NDA sources, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi may be the first to dump the BJP.

For the DMK, the situation is even more alarming than that of the other allies. A section of BJP leaders are already patting his rival Jayalalithaa for some of her actions. Though the DMK is anti-Congress, it could still tie up with Sonia Gandhi’s party if the ADMK institutionalises its support to the NDA.

Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu is also a worried man. Sources close to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister say he is constantly seeking inputs from contacts in Delhi about the health of the BJP and the government.

Of late, Naidu and Fernandes have been exchanging notes.

A Desam source, however, said Naidu is unlikely to rock the NDA boat now. “He has an uncanny sense of timing,” the sources said. “He will strike only when he is dead sure that the iron is hot.”

BJD chief Navin Patnaik’s problem is acute. Party rebels out to dislodge him are exploiting his association with the BJP. Sources say Patnaik, to neutralise his enemies, may try to distance himself from the Vajpayee government and eventually quit the NDA.

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