The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP opts for safe path

New Delhi, Sept. 5: After dithering on what stand to take when Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav faces his vote of confidence on Monday, the BJP has decided to issue a whip directing its 87 legislators to vote against the motion.

The decision was the outcome of a two-hour meeting this morning chaired by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani in BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s residence.

The meeting was also attended by other key Uttar Pradesh players at the Centre, including human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and agriculture minister Rajnath Singh as well as state leaders Kalraj Mishra, Vinay Katiyar and Lalji Tandon.

Katiyar said: “There was no ambivalence. All of us felt since the BJP has decided to sit in the Opposition, we should get into battle mode from the word go and oppose the Yadav government inside the House and outside.”

But other Uttar Pradesh BJP sources said Rajnath, who opposed the BSP coalition experiment from the start and made no secret of his glee at Mayavati’s exit, insisted that a whip should not be issued and legislators should be allowed to vote “according to their conscience”.

However, this line was not backed by the Uttar Pradesh contingent.

Mishra and Tandon are believed to have argued that the BJP’s image was “considerably dented” following the perception that it was “principally responsible” for toppling its own government and installing Mulayam Singh’s.

“There was a feeling that party interests were sacrificed to suit the whims of a few individuals and the right message was not going to the cadre,” a source said, echoing what it claimed was the Mishra-Tandon “line”.

Although sources said neither Mishra nor Tandon was overly keen to see Mayavati in the saddle “largely because the BJP’s traditional vote base was getting eroded”, they could also “not appreciate the logic of tacitly backing a Samajwadi Party-led dispensation”.

Their viewpoint was if the BJP could not gain politically by being part of a Mayavati-led coalition, how would it benefit if it was seen as “collaborating” with its arch enemy Mulayam Singh, the sources said.

A whip, the sources added, was also a mechanism to project the image that the Uttar Pradesh BJP was not split along caste lines, with Rajputs having their own affiliations as was made out when Mayavati was dethroned.

The other consideration that reportedly weighed with the BJP was to “reassure” Mayavati that it was keen to distance itself from Mulayam Singh.

Sources said her declaration that she would not tie up with the Congress either for the Assembly or the Lok Sabha elections was a “positive sign” for the BJP. Therefore, the party had decided to show her that the option of allying with the BSP in the near future was still open.

However, sources conceded that in the event of Mulayam Singh failing to get his numbers, the BJP may have had second thoughts about a whip. With a one-third split in the BSP likely to see Mulayam Singh sail through the trust vote, the BJP — which is trying to ensure Kesri Nath Tripathi continues as Speaker — was spared what an official called a “political” dilemma.

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