The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Greener pastures on allies’ radar

New Delhi, June 18: Racked by dissent and worried at their shrinking political space, some BJP allies are looking at other alternatives even as speculation is rife that the coalition is thinking of advancing next year’s Lok Sabha election.

A few of them are even contemplating joining the third front, likely to be revived in the run-up to the general election.

Barring the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party, almost all the allies are riven by squabbles. While some of them can be part of a third front with direct or indirect truck with the Congress, an outfit like the Biju Janata Dal has limited options as the Congress is its main rival in Orissa.

The same holds true of the Desam, which is facing the heat from the Congress in Andhra Pradesh.

The DMK, the Janata Dal (United), the MDMK and the PMK may not have any problem in leaving the BJP-led bandwagon, analysts said. However, the Samata Party, which is closely identified with the BJP, may stick with the NDA, they added.

DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has dropped broad hints that he will reconsider his options. Though he said it was “too premature” to discuss the alliance issue, indications are he is getting ready to dump the BJP.

Sources said the former Tamil Nadu chief minister is furious with the BJP top brass for indulging ADMK chief Jayalalithaa. Last week, finance minister Jaswant Singh went to the Tamil Nadu Bhavan to meet the chief minister.

Talking to a news agency in Chennai on Monday, Karunanidhi said his party would not sit quiet but play an effective role in bringing about political change. “We will not watch the fun. We will play an effective role in the change,” he said, but did not elaborate.

The DMK chief’s words, on the eve of the BJP’s four-day chintan baithak in Mumbai, is significant.

The DMK has already snapped ties with the BJP at the state level. Sources said Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin, who is likely to succeed his father as party chief, is keen on either an alliance with the Congress or joining a third front.

The Dal (U), led by food and civil supplies minister Sharad Yadav, is also weighing options. While the party is racked by indiscipline — at least two MPs have opened a channel of communication with Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav — the Dal (U) chief is himself miffed with the BJP leadership.

Sources say his recent visit to Bhubaneswar was to explore the possibility of new alliances. Yadav held meetings with rebel BJD and BJP members. He also met Orissa Gana Parishad leaders, who are planning a third front in Orissa in league with the four BJD MPs who broke with Navin Patnaik.

The Samata, riven with faction rivalry, is likely to disintegrate in the run-up to the election, with a section joining the RJD and another the Congress.

While a handful, including defence minister George Fernandes, and possibly railway minister Nitish Kumar, may continue in the NDA, others are likely to try out different pastures. There are even rumours that Kumar may join hands with Laloo Prasad.

The state of affairs in the Trinamul Congress, too, is fluid. While rebel Ajit Panja is warming up to the Congress, Sudip Bandopadhyay has already established a good rapport with BJP top guns.

Desam chief . Chandrababu Naidu, sources say, will not disclose his cards till the last moment. He could continue in the NDA or join a third front, depending on the situation, as his main enemy is the Congress.

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