The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies turn cold to BJP

New Delhi, May 15: The BJP’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections has made some of its allies restive, with a few questioning the wisdom of continuing their alliance with the saffron party. They hold the BJP responsible for the debacle as it forced an early election.

The Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh may go it alone, keeping equal distance from the Congress and the BJP. Trouble is also brewing in the Northeast as National Democratic Alliance supporters like Nagaland People’s Front and the Sikkim Democratic Front are likely to support the Congress.

The strength of the allies, barring two, has dwindled after the polls. The undivided Janata Dal (United), which had 22 members in the 13th Lok Sabha, is reduced to eight. The Desam is reduced to five members from 29 earlier. The Trinamul Congress has one against the earlier nine and the Indian National Lok Dal, which was dumped by the BJP on the eve of elections, has drawn a blank.

Only two allies — the Biju Janata Dal and Akali Dal — have done well this time. The BJD, which bagged 10 seats in 1999, has secured 11, while the Akali Dal’s tally is up from two to eight, thanks to the unpopularity of the Amarinder Singh government. The Shiv Sena, which had 15 seats, lost only two.

Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal said his party would stay with the NDA, but criticised the BJP for treating its allies badly. He was particularly critical of the way Om Prakash Chautala, Haryana chief minister and INLD chief, had been dumped.

Signs of restlessness were also noticed in George Fernandes’ JD(U). Though Fernandes is a BJP supporter, JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar wants to distance himself from the saffron camp.

Former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, who left the Nationalist Congress Party and joined the JD(U) on the eve of the polls, fired the first salvo yesterday when he asked Fernandes to break ties with the BJP. Sources said Mishra wants Nitish to be handed over the reins in Bihar and projected as the chief ministerial candidate ahead of the Assembly elections in February 2005.

The Desam, which had earlier said it would stick to the NDA, revised its stand two days ago. Party sources said . Chandrababu Naidu may desert the saffron party as the minorities turned against him and this was reflected in the poll results.

Sources said Neiphiu Rio, Nagaland chief minister, who heads the NPF-BJP-JD(U) coalition, has hinted that he may return to the Congress fold. Rio, who backed the saffron camp in February 2003 on an anti-Congress plank, however, put forward the condition that his bete-noire, S.C. Jamir, should be thrown out of the Congress.

SDF chief Pawan Chamling, however, has no such conditions. He has openly said he will support the Congress at the Centre.

Rattled by the change of stance of Rio and Chamling, the North East People’s Forum, of which P. A. Sangma is chief architect, has convened an emergency meeting tomorrow.

Chief ministers of all eight northeastern states enjoying special category status feel that it is in the interest of their states to have a friendly government in New Delhi as they survive on financial grants from the Centre.

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