The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kingmaker trio in NDA mixed bag

New Delhi, Oct. 25: The Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the ADMK of Jayalalithaa and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party are likely to emerge kingmakers in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. These parties may bag 65 to 70 seats, according to a discreet survey done by the ruling National Democratic Alliance.

The scenario envisaged by the report is not pleasing either for the BJP or the Congress. Both national parties may have to be content with 140 to 150 seats each — a drop of about 40 seats for the BJP and a marginal gain for the Congress.

But with strong anti-Congress sentiments among the regional parties, the principal Opposition party may not be able to muster enough support to form a government.

For the BJP, the silver lining is that it is not a pariah among the regional parties. Apart from existing allies like the Telugu Desam Party, the Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Indian National Lok Dal, the party can hope for support from the Samajwadi, the NCP and the ADMK. If leaders of these parties agree to play second fiddle to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he could still cobble together a coalition, said analysts.

If the ADMK becomes an NDA partner, one could discount the DMK and, in the wake of the BJP’s new-found love for the Samajwadi, Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party can also be counted out.

But these two parties, analysts said, are not enough to substantially add to the tally of the ally-less — save the Rashtriya Janata Dal — Congress. Sonia Gandhi, however, can look forward to support from the Left parties.

Another scenario could be a government by the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), being given shape by NDA convener George Fernandes, Pawar, Mulayam Singh and Jayalalithaa. Sources said they are being guided by two Rajput leaders, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. The PDF, if and when it is launched, will not have any “secular” prefix or suffix as leaders like Fernandes have an aversion for the much used and misused word.

According to the analysts, the Samajwadi is likely to bag between 30 and 32 seats, the second largest after the BJP and the Congress. The ADMK front may bag as many as 25 while the DMK is likely to retain its current tally. Despite the sympathy wave generated by the Naxalite attack on him, Desam chief . Chandrababu Naidu may be in for a shock as far as Lok Sabha seats are concerned.

The analysts said their current projection for the Desam is a dozen — it now has 29 seats in the Lok Sabha — and between five and seven for the BSP.

The Samata and the Biju Janata Dal are also projected as heavy losers. Intense faction rivalry could take its toll of the Samata, which may at most get four to five seats in Bihar.

The sources said the regional satraps are closely watching the situation. While Mulayam Singh, Pawar, and H.D. Deve Gowda do not veil their prime ministerial ambition, Fernandes and Jayalalithaa are more discreet.

The grapevine has it that Jayalalithaa, who is waiting for an auspicious moment to launch herself into national politics, may shift to Delhi after Makar Sankranti on January 14. A new building — a Tamil Nadu Bhavan already exists — is being constructed in a posh locality for Jayalalithaa to lead the third front from.

The sources said a crafty Jayalalithaa has poached on the BJP’s space in Tamil Nadu by taking up Hindutva causes vigorously, while at the national level, she is maintaining ties with even Laloo Prasad Yadav.

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