The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong rules, Delhi doles out sops

New Delhi, Oct. 11: The BJP’s campaign line during the February Himachal Pradesh polls was: “Have a friendly government at the Centre and your state will prosper.” The theme was the largesse bestowed by Delhi in the form of power projects, roads and irrigation schemes.

For Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Rajasthan, where the next round of political pugilism will be played out, the BJP is slightly reworking the theme to strengthen its muscles.

Party sources said it will be emphasised that though they are ruled by the Congress, the states have been showered with the Centre’s bounty. As a corollary, if the Congress chief ministers crow about how well they did, it was thanks to the NDA government. “If Ajit Jogi (the chief minister) boasts of all the schemes he launched, my question is who funded them' The answer is the Centre. What has he contributed from the state budget' Zero,” said Chhattisgarh BJP president Raman Singh.

Among the schemes are the creation of a rail zone for Bilaspur, a 2000MW NTPC project at Sripad near Bilaspur and an iron dust-based unit of the National Mineral Development Corporation. But he admitted that while these “achievements” may embellish the BJP’s record book, the party is still nowhere close to forging a social coalition that could counter the tribal-backward caste-Dalit axis Jogi has worked hard at. For that, the Centre has no answer.

The Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh BJP units, however, managed to force the Centre to respond to the socio-political challenges in their states with policy statements. For instance, Rajasthan party sources said that but for their insistence, the Delhi top brass would have waffled over the issue of reservation for the economically backward classes, adopted as a cabinet decision by chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

A meeting of the BJP central office bearers in Jaipur — held shortly after the cabinet decision — reacted by asking the Centre to set up a commission to earmark a quota within the constraints of a Supreme Court ruling which capped the reservation percentage at 50. “Nothing may come of it but at least when Gehlot makes an issue of it in his campaign, we will have a face-saver,” said a defensive Rajasthan MP.

The Centre’s dithering on the Conditional Access System is seen as a fallout of the pressure exerted by Delhi BJP chief ministerial candidate Madan Lal Khurana. He would have none of it once the Congress started asking uncomfortable questions on how much more TV viewers would have to pay once cable operators were out of the picture.

Khurana was responsible for another major policy announcement — to allow commercial enterprises to operate from residential areas. The Delhi BJP had attacked the Centre when it asked business units working out of housing colonies and societies to move to specially-created industrial zones.

In Madhya Pradesh, BJP leaders are grateful to their bosses for three things: agreeing to consider the demand to convert forest villages into revenue villages so that they could have power, road and irrigation facilities, confer ownership rights to forest dwellers using forest land for cultivation with 1990 as the cut-off point and opening up the contentious Bhojshala shrine for worship by Hindus. “At one stroke, it has helped us take on Digvijay Singh (the chief minister) on his turf. We will be able to cut into his Dalit and tribal support and silence his rhetoric on Hindutva,” said Shivraj Singh Chauhan, BJP state general secretary.

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