The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP looks at alliance open door

New Delhi, May 10: A view has emerged in the BJP that if the National Democratic Alliance falls short of majority, it should stake claim to form a government as the single largest party.

With exit polls forecasting either a wafer-thin majority for the BJP-led group or a decline in its tally, this body of opinion — which seems to be dominant —believes such a move would throw the door open to prospective allies and derail the chances of a combine coalescing around the Congress or a third front.

The section in the party that holds this view feels that, apart from causing a churn in the Opposition, it would keep the existing partners in line.

An “invitation” from the Congress to NDA allies to join a front it would lead has helped give shape to the opinion.

BJP sources said enlarging the NDA is “more feasible” than forming a Congress-centred alliance. They argue that “anti-Congressism as a political philosophy still finds a large number of adherents” and any attempt to put together a non-NDA front would get bogged down in the question of who would lead it.

“On our side, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership is uniformly acceptable,” the sources added.

Signs of its keenness on roping in new partners were manifest in statements like the one from former Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Kalraj Mishra who said that, if need be, the NDA’s agenda for governance could be amended if prospective allies with a “secular outlook” so desired.

The agenda contains the Ayodhya temple proposal and the need for a law to protect the cow.

The second stream of opinion in the party is that new partners will join only if the NDA is close to or crosses the half-way mark of 272. “New allies will come only if the NDA gets a clear majority. That is stage one because anything less than 270 could throw open possibilities of an alternative formation,” said a BJP functionary.

A high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence this morning went over possible scenarios thrown up by various numbers and discussed strategies to be adopted in each of these cases. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh were present at the two-hour session.

BJP sources said the leaders were almost sure it is a “matter of time” before two former NDA constituents — the Indian National Lok Dal and the National Conference — return to the fold, thanks to the efforts of the Akali Dal.

The other block the BJP is looking at is Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. The sources said they had received feedback that Mayavati would improve on her 1999 tally of 14 by as many as four to five seats, making her utility “decisive”.

Mishra hinted at a second look at Mayavati after last year’s estrangement. “No one is untouchable, no one is an enemy. We have a programme which is not based on ideology. Anyone who accepts it is welcome. If new allies want one or two new points to be incorporated in our programme, we are open to the idea,” he said.

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